Marvel's investment in digital media, including digital publication of its comic books, is costing some profit on the publishing side, Peter Cuneo, vice chairman of the board, told analysts in today's Q3 earnings call. According to the transcript (via Seeking Alpha), Cuneo answered a question about lower publishing growth by reminding: "Remember also that we are making a substantial investment in our digital publishing effort and we've noted in our press release today that the out-of-pocket in 2009 we anticipate will be around $6 million for that effort. So when you look at the publishing segment as a whole, you will see a decline in the profitability." The company has invested $2.5 million to $3 million so far this year and plans to finish at $4 million. That would bring the total digital media investment for 2008-09 to about $10 million.
Asked to flesh out the digital initiatives, CFO Kenneth West added: "I would imagine that probably in the year 2011, we are going to see the first real positive contribution associated with digital media. That would be a combination of ad revenues, digital subscribers picking up on the subscription of comic books but not until that period, because we'll continue to invest in that and it's going to take some time and the dollars that we've built into our forecast." He wouldn't project the 2010 level of investment but said "we would anticipate the continuation of the digital investment for our future."
Marvel (NYSE: MVL) hired Sony (NYSE: SNE) vet Ira Rubenstein as EVP of its new Global Digital Media Group earlier this year. No details in this call or release on how the group is doing or what kind of traction Marvel is getting from its subscription Digital Comics Unlimited.
By Staci D. Kramer