The comics/film/tv company IDW has announced its third quarter earnings for 2022, and the good news is that the company’s consolidated revenue is up year-on-year for the quarter. The bad news is, that might not be a sustainable growth in the long term.
IDW Media Holdings, the parent company of both IDW Publishing and IDW Entertainment, reported its third quarter results Thursday afternoon, with the company’s earnings rising 14% to $7.7 million for the three-month period. That figure was the result of a revenue increase of $1.2 million at IDW Entertainment, offsetting a decrease in revenue from IDW Publishing, which saw its earnings fall from $6.8 million to $6.6 million during the same period.
There’s a significant amount of information to be gleaned from the quarterly report, not least of which an unpacking of that $1.2 million rise in revenue for IDW Entertainment for the quarter; according to the company, almost all of that — $1.1 million — came from the delivery of the first season of Surfside Girls to Apple TV+, a show that has yet to be renewed by the streamer. (Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that IDW expects Q4 revenue from the third (and final) season of Netflix’s Locke & Key — and also reports that it has five shows in development based on IDW Publishing properties.)
While Surfside Girls' revenue sounds welcome for IDW, that it accountded for over 90% of its Q3 revenue rise means that without it there would be little upward trajectory for the company.
IDW's comic book business is down in the short-term
Also notable from the report is that IDW Publishing’s reduction in revenue for the quarter was positioned as a result of fewer titles being released, the end of the successful series TMNT: The Last Ronin, and a transition between Diamond Comic Distributors and Penguin Random House. Additionally, the company noted a “decline in digital sales.”
Overall, however, for the first nine months of the fiscal year, IDW Publishing’s revenue was up 9% from the previous year to $20.1 million, while IDW Entertainment’s overall revenue was down, to $5.5 million from $6.9 million for the same period in 2021.
The first words from IDW's new CEO
In a statement, new IDW CEO Allan Grafman admitted that the company has “a lot of work to do, but I am confident that, as we build the development pipeline while at the same time completing and delivering projects, we will drive long term growth and a more predictable revenue cadence.”
Elsewhere in the statement, Grafman arguably identified the direction of the company moving forward, saying, “We are committed to sharpening our focus on acquiring and developing original IP content and we are beginning to see solid traction from our efforts to expand our publishing library. To that end, in early August we announced five series development deals with a range of well-known studios, networks and streaming services, to develop television series based on our IDWP and Top-Shelf Productions graphic novels and comics. Our originals represent some of the most creative characters and stories available and we look forward to continuing to tap our robust library for adaptation into compelling series, feature films and podcasts with the industry’s leading authors and content creators.”
Grafman himself has only recently become chief executive officer of IDW Media Holdings, having been announced in the role on August 24, replacing the outgoing Ezra Rosensaft, who had been named CEO in 2020 after working as the company’s chief financial officer since 2018. Grafman has previously served on IDW’s Board of Directors, and as the chairman of the company’s audit committee since 2019.
Grafman’s installation as CEO was the latest in a number of changes at IDW in the last year; in December, editor-in-chief John Barber left the company, with the position remaining unfilled today. Instead, the duties have been split between Mark Doyle, VP creative & editorial strategy, and Jamie S. Rich, who joined the company in May as executive editorial director. Both are arguably best known for their work at DC, which included being the final top editors of the much-missed Vertigo imprint.
IDW pivots (back) towards original material
When Rich was brought into the company, it was announced that he’d be responsible for developing licensed products, in addition to managing the editorial staff. IDW has historically placed a heavy reliance on licensed material in its comic book line, with properties like Star Trek, Sonic the Hedgehog, Dungeons & Dragons, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a high priority for the company’s comic book line; unfortunately, this focus can open up the potential for trouble from external sources, such as the license holder unexpectedly looking for a new publishing partner — something that IDW has had to deal with often in the past few years, losing the Marvel Action line, the Star Wars Adventures titles, and both Transformers and G.I. Joe. (The final issues of the last two franchises will be published before the end of the year.) Similarly, earlier this month it was revealed that IDW has also lost the license to publish Usagi Yojimbo, with the property returning to Dark Horse Comics.
No surprise, then, that IDW is looking to increase publication of original material. The five series in development that Grafman mentioned earlier as being announced last month, are Dark Spaces: Wildfire, Brutal Nature, The Delicacy, Rivers, and Ballad For Sophie — all titles that IDW published originally. Notably, the latter three all come from IDW’s Top Shelf Productions imprint and underscoring the importance of that line for IDW Media Holdings as a whole. (Surfside Girls is also a Top Shelf title.)
Of the remaining two projects, the one to pay attention to is likely Dark Spaces: Wildfire, being developed by Universal Content Productions. That series, which only launched in July, is part of IDW’s recently launched IDW Originals line, overseen by Mark Doyle — a series of projects in multiple genres from a variety of well-known creators including Scott Snyder (the co-creator of Dark Spaces with artist Hayden Sherman), Ms. Marvel co-creator G. Willow Wilson, and novelist Stephen Graham Jones, each one perfectly ready to be adapted for the screen by IDW Entertainment. Beyond the nine launch titles for IDW Originals, to be rolled out over the next few months, the company is developing additional original projects, including a new series from Academy Award-winning screenwriter John Ridley.
Of course, this isn’t an entirely new direction for the company; IDW’s first breakout book was 2002’s 30 Days of Night, by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith — a project that was, five years later, made into the cult hit movie of the same name.
As part of IDW’s distribution deal with Penguin Random House, its shipments are getting extra attention in terms of packaging.