Peanuts to be syndicated by Universal

Universal Uclick has announced that this February they will be the syndicating Charles Schulz’ classic comic strip Peanuts. The acquisition was made possible after the Schulz family formed Peanuts Worldwide LLC, a joint venture owned 80% by Iconix Brand Group, Inc. and 20% by members of the family, and purchased the copyrights from United Media.

Jean Schulz, widow of Charles M. Schulz, commented, ?After recently acquiring my husband?s copyrights with Iconix, we are pleased to be moving the syndication of the Peanuts comic strip to such a top industry player, especially since Universal has been such a long time publishing partner to the brand. We look forward to Universal?s syndication of the Peanuts comic strip into traditional and new media applications so a new generation of readers and viewers can enjoy the message of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and all the Peanuts characters.?

Universal is one of the largest and most successful syndicates. In addition to making Peanuts available to newspapers, Universal offers printing (books, calendars) through Andrews McMeel, and a growing stable of offerings through mobile and the internet.

On October 2, 1950 the Peanuts comic strip launched in seven American newspapers. It still appears in over 2,200 newspapers, in 75 countries and 21 languages.

46 thoughts on “Peanuts to be syndicated by Universal

  1. I mentioned this earlier today in another thread, but Sparky used to dismiss the importance of his strip, stating that real art speaks to succeeding generations.

    Good grief! Has he ever succeeded!!

  2. So at every one of those 2,000 papers, an editor is going to have to make the decision to keep featuring reruns in their newspaper.

    Not a bad time to drop a letter to the editor of your local paper and remind them that newspapers are supposed to be full of new stuff.

  3. This is a shock. Sparky was viciously loyal to United Press. There are cartoonists who signed with United Press simply because it was Sparky’s syndicate.

    I mean, I’m happy for Universal (especially since I’m with them) but I’m really surprised that it came to this.

  4. Charlie Brown would be wondering how the people at United are feeling right now.

    I will never stop loving Peanuts, but I prefer reading collections the same way I like to watch old TV shows on DVD. You get the full, cumulative effect that way. When I see Peanuts in the paper I tend to skip over it because I have the strip memorized and know I’ll reread it in a book at some point.

    It’s probably safe to assume that most newspaper readers haven’t combed over every strip, though.

  5. Flash-in-the-pan sensations will never hold a candle to Sparky’s superior writing. Peanuts is a refreshing break from today’s “safe”, watered-down humor…a read for the ages. Universal acquired a true gem!

  6. “Peanuts is a refreshing break from today?s ?safe?, watered-down humor…”

    I take exception to this. I just did a stool-softener gag. If that’s not cutting edge, I don’t know what is.

  7. RE: “I take exception to this. I just did a stool-softener gag. If that?s not cutting edge, I don?t know what is.”


    Wait…is the fact I L’d my A off at a stool softener joke ironic or unironic?

  8. So Classic Peanuts will leave United Feature Syndicate/ in Feb. 2010 and move to Universal Uclick/ ? GOOD GRIEF!

    How will newspapers handle this?

    I wish someday with the Schulz family wishes the Peanuts comic strip was reborn with a new artist and new episodes.

  9. Interesting to see Jean’s testimonial for her new syndicate. I wonder how many “Benjamins” it took for that? The folks at her old syndicate kept the strip alive in 2,200+ newspapers after 10 years since Schulz’s passing. I’d say they did a hell of a job with newspapers cutting content left a right in recent years.

    So much for loyalty, I guess it’s the sign of the times.

  10. @ Ted Rall “This can?t possibly spell a bright future for my former employer”

    I don’t know about facts and figures but ever since United changed the layout/design of their website I thought it was going downhill.This new look one is harder to navigate , confusing and big empty spaces where no ads are not being displayed, the strips show backwards if you want more than one displayed and. The older version had everything clearly laid out and easy to navigate. If you want to know a syndicate’s fortunes , just look at their website.

  11. No doubt, the redesign was a fiasco. United spent millions on that pos. They fired me as they gave the guy in charge of it an even bigger budget! Go figure.

  12. “I wish someday with the Schulz family wishes the Peanuts comic strip was reborn with a new artist and new episodes.”

    Pretty sure Sparky specifically stipulated against that in his will, wanting to keep his creations His.

  13. Ted, can you share a little more about the web fiasco? I am genuinely interested in what you/others think is wrong with the site. Lord knows I have my own list, which was promptly ignored.

  14. Where to start?

    First and foremost, the guy UM brought in to redesign the site outright said that design, appearance and user functionality didn’t matter–that ad revenue would rise no matter what the site looked or felt like.

    The result was a site that was JavaScript heavy, crashed all the time, contained dozens of widgets that didn’t work, that looked like utter crap. When the site relaunched, the front page was a 404 error. For days. During that time, rather than be embarrassed, the web team went home promptly at 5 every day.

    And this cost millions. Millions!

    When United goes under, it will mostly be due to this mess. And the people responsible never even got their budgets cut.

    Meanwhile, they still haven’t hired a new acquisitions editor.

  15. I should hasten to add that I coauthored a long memo detailing the problems with the site prior to launch. Which, like most of my bright ideas, was ignored.

    The management of that company should be sent through a wormhole to 1966 China and dispatched to a May 4th farm.

  16. RE: ?I take exception to this. I just did a stool-softener gag. If that?s not cutting edge, I don?t know what is.?

    Schulz never had to resort to such baseness. I believe that’s why Peanuts is still around and many modern comics are still having to fight for space. Many modern “I can write it because there’s free speech in this country” comic strip artists don’t get the difference between what they *can* write and what they *should* write.

  17. RE: “GOOD GRIEF! How will newspapers handle this?”

    Most newspapers will never notice the difference since everything is farmed through Reed Brennan or another such service anyway.

  18. RE: “First and foremost, the guy UM brought in to redesign the site outright said that design, appearance and user functionality didn?t matter?that ad revenue would rise no matter what the site looked or felt like. The result was a site that was JavaScript heavy, crashed all the time, contained dozens of widgets that didn?t work, that looked like utter crap. When the site relaunched, the front page was a 404 error. For days. During that time, rather than be embarrassed, the web team went home promptly at 5 every day.”

    So many management idiots today want sites with all the bells and whistles, with no ounce of understanding it takes to the amount of bandwidth they need to pull it off. Worse that the javascripting is the number of sites heavily using or totally embedded in Flash. Companies don’t get that people don’t necessarily see their site the way it’s viewed when looked at in-house. All of these bells and whistles slow down the experience, and user experience is proportionally related to the user’s view of the brand. Companies should understand that content, not the bells and whistles, is king on the Web. Don’t even get me started on the number of web designers who throw in everything including the kitchen sink because they can and get paid for it, with no interest in the company’s well being in mind. Marketing should start paying more attention to what’s good for the company as opposed to how flashy things look.

  19. @Ted Rall “And this cost millions.Millions!”

    WOW! Thanks for sharing that Ted. I used to have a lot of respect for United, now it’s really diminished and I feel really sorry for it’s artists.Ted, you know the figure – for a couple of million how many features that could be launched would that pay for? Also is this the reason would you say that they had to sell Peanuts off? People talk about the next Watterson or Schulz coming through the ranks, but what incentive do they have when if they achieve a really big client list , the rug is taken from underneath them like this and they can be sold off to whoever ( they are lucky Universal took Peanuts but it could have been a lot worse)
    The real loser in all of this is Pearls before Swine – I used to read this every day on but can no longer due to the irratation the new site layout gives me.

  20. For what was spent on the initial web redesign–not counting the additional funds that came later–I could have launched 250 new comic strips.

    Not, of course, that the market could have absorbed them. The market can absorb at best a dozen new strips a year, total. Not even. But I was only allowed to do two or three.

    If I’d had access to that money, suffice it to say that it would have been spent very differently.

  21. Back to the topic at hand: I can’t even begin to imagine the level of poor decision-making and stupidity at UM that prompted the Schulz estate to pack up and move.

  22. I recently bought the fairly new “My Life with Charlie Brown” book which gathers some of Sparky’s published and unpublished writings, edited by M. Thomas Inge.

    Here’s a timely quote from Sparky’s 1994 “Address to the National Cartoonists Society Convention” …

    “This is not a crazy business about slinging ink. This is a deadly serious business. I’ve always had a wonderful relationship with my editors, starting with Jim Freeman, working on up, and now I have the best editor I’ve ever had, Sarah Gillespie. I’ve always had a good relationship with the men who were the sales managers and the salesmen, and the men who were the presidents of the syndicate, starting with Larry Rutman, who treated me like a son. Now, I think it’s important for all of us and all of you to establish those relationships. But it’s not a business of slinging ink. It’s a deadly serious business. And someplace up there [in the corporation], there are some people that you will never know existed. They don’t care anything about you–so watch yourself. They don’t even read the comics. They could not possibly care less what happens to you. Sarah Gillespie cares about what happens to you, [and some others do]; I don’t know who these people are “up there,” but I’m sure that every organization has this group of mystery people up there. They are like the people who own a ball club, like the man who owns a theatre–he doesn’t really care about the actors. He likes the bottom line and all that. Those are the people to watch out for. The older you get–well, it took me 40 years to discover that.”

    Charles M. Schulz
    Delivered May 14, 1994

  23. People, people, people. Hang on to your sour grapes. Sparky had a very respectful personal and business relationship with United Media. In his best “do you really think I’m worthy’ schtick, he had final say on everything published and licensed and lived in his $150 million annual ‘servitude.’ When he died, United Media turned Peanuts into the best read comic in reruns in history. Not even its former acquistions editor could botch that. But we are in an era of free agency and the family wants more…and more. Relationships be damned (roll over Sparky). So Universal Press will pay too much (family-owned), take the spotlight off its ineptitude and attempt to embarrass the good people @ United who work very hard in developing, promoting, selling and servicing quality syndicated products worldwide. Does anyone really think this move has anything to do with a website presentation or a 404 error? The real loser is Pearls Before Swine? Stephan Pastis is anchored to an honest syndication company. United Media talent is working with truthful and genuine people.

  24. I don’t care whether folks working at United are saints or demons, really, doesn’t matter to me. I’ve been a self-employed cartoonist for 18 years – I’ve got no dog in this hunt.

    I have nothing against your company. I wish you and the employees of United only the best. I hope your stock rises and your overhead shrinks and that you attract the most talented and deserving cartoonist to produce stellar work deserving of the highest praise.

    But of all the websites I surf to read comics, stands ALONE in its ineptitude, incompetence and general squalor.

    Please, please, PLEASE fix that POS.

  25. Dave: I’m sure you plea to ‘fix’ the site is not falling on deaf ears, hyperbole notwithstanding. FYI: I am not an employee of United Media so, by some definition, I don’t have a dog in this hunt either.

  26. So true Ted. But competence is subjective. Truth and honesty are not. They are not mutually exclusive. I’d rather start with honest people and work from there.

  27. Sorry, John, but there are so many sour grapes in your own post, where you take bitter shots at Schulz’s earnings, his family’s “greed”, Universal and Ted Rall, and too much defense of United Media (“the good people @ United who work very hard in developing, promoting, selling and servicing quality syndicated products worldwide”, “Stephan Pastis is anchored to an honest syndication company”, “United Media talent is working with truthful and genuine people”) for me or anyone else with half a brain to believe that you’re not on United’s payroll. Nice try.

  28. Obviously Ted has had different experiences with United than I have, but I actually really like the people over there, and have always been treated well by them.

    I just think the website is a mess, and could be fixed easily if they had the inclination, or know how.

    When I offered some specific actionable changes, they said they would take them to the web people, and a week later they said they were told they couldn’t be done.

    So I think Ted is probably right that whoever is handling the site for them is incompetent, and unfortunately they are taking this person at their word.

  29. Ted, $6,500,000 is the figure I just came up with. I read somewhere a feature costs about $26,000 to launch (this was some years ago so now it’s probably more), if that’s true and you say you could have launched the equivalent of 250 features then that’s $6,500,000 (at least) spent on that stupid website. Like i said before in this thread, there was nothing wrong with the old site of .United has probably lost hundreds of thousands of potential online readers who will never come back.Even the average webcomic is a whole lot easier to navigate than most syndicate sites.

  30. I couldn’t for the life of me reconcile the intelligent-seeming folks I met at United with that unprintable verbing website.

    At least I got some smart editing help and could write the experience off as “grad school.”

  31. With that money they wasted on the site they could have made a publication that could contain all their current comics. a few new ones as well and put adverts for their own online merchandise scattered throughout and given it away free with weekly newspapers. This may have brought in a lot more revenue than their current site does and uplifted their reputation a bit more.

  32. You did read my memo.

    As Mr. Stevens says, most people at United are smart. The problem is that their good ideas are stymied by wildly dysfunctional management. While I was there, the rot started at the top with Scripps in Cincinnati. Like a plague, it got passed down the corporate ranks to middle management. It didn’t take long before all those illogical, nonsensical “nos” in response to good ideas took effect. To survive at United, you keep your head down and tie 50 IQ points tied behind your back.

  33. Ted they say life imitates art, well it sounds from your description that United is acting very much like Dilbert’s company , complete with Pointy Haired Boss.

  34. You said it. But United Media cubical workers said it first.

    One of my most enlightening conversations occurred in my office with two fellow executives. Both of them were complaining that junior editors weren’t motivated enough. Didn’t have enough fire in their belly. Weren’t taking the initiative.

    A morale problem, I said.

    They agreed.

    I repeated what any decent business manager will tell you: improving employee morale is management’s job. They have to provide incentives for making more effort: higher salaries, praise, promotions, credit, involvement in better projects.

    They shot me down. Incredulously, I listened as they argued that morale comes from the bottom of the ranks, that it’s up to the grunts to buck up and work harder, well, just because. They didn’t care to offer their staff any reason to do more. The problem was their fault, and they were blaming the victims!

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