IDW Loses $26.4 Million in 2019, Projects Profitability in 2021

Comic book publishers are notoriously secretive about their finances. Comic book sales numbers are guestimates based on an opaque index ranking published by Diamond, and that doesn't include digital sales or bookstore numbers. But as a publicly-traded company, IDW Media Holdings, the parent company of IDW Publishing, releases quarterly financial reports that provide us with a rare insight into how at least one publisher is doing. And in the case of IDW, the story has remained consistent from quarter to quarter: they're losing money.

IDW's 2019 Q4 financial report was released this week, showing that IDW Media Holdings as a whole lost $26.4 million on revenue of $62.6 million. IDW Publishing, the part that makes the comic books, lost $5.2 million on their own. Revenue for the publisher was down slightly from 2018 at $20.1 million. IDW Entertainment, the part that makes television shows, lost $19.8 million. Even CTM, IDW's travel brochure printing business, posted a loss of $1.3 million in 2019.

Despite it all, IDW remains optimistic in a statement from IDW Media Holdings Chairman and CEO Howard Jonas, who even suggested the company may be listed on a national stock exchange to increase investment:

With our improving financial and operational outlook, we are exploring listing IDW on a national stock exchange to enhance our visibility, increase liquidity in the market for our stock, and broaden our shareholder base. In conjunction with the up-list, we intend to raise additional growth capital to further strengthen our balance sheet and to pursue the abundant growth opportunities afforded by the intensifying competition among streaming services for original content.

All year, Jonas has been touting the impending financial success that will one day come from one of IDW's Netflix adaptations becoming a big hit and making everyone rich, the glow-in-the-dark wallpaper of comic book publishing get-rich-quick schemes. The company frequently likens its library of intellectual properties to those of Marvel or DC, though in truth most of the comics IDW publishes are licensed. They are making the most of the original properties they do have, though, with Jonas projecting profitability… but not this year.

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, revenue was boosted by delivery of 'V Wars' and the majority of the 'October Faction" episodes to Netflix, while the legacy production finance agreements utilized for these shows and production cost overages resulted in significant losses. The remaining impact of these legacy deals will be recognized in the first quarter fiscal 2020 results reflecting the delivery of the balance of 'October Faction' episodes to Netflix.

Looking ahead, IDW Entertainment is delivering season one of 'Locke & Key' to Netflix and we expect that it will contribute to our bottom line in the first half of fiscal 2020.

IDW is on track to attain steadily profitable operations in 2021 and beyond with prospective upside from potential renewals of IDW Entertainment's current line-up, from our previously announced deal with Cineflix and SyFy for distribution of 'Wynonna Earp', from new deals that the IDW Entertainment team is developing from its IP pipeline and from our focus on complete franchise monetization through merchandising, games, video on demand, and other fandom-driven channels. We are working to ensure that all divisions of IDW operate profitably by fiscal 2021.

On the publishing side, IDW doesn't mention anything about the traditional direct market comic book business in their media highlights. However, the company does extoll the virtues of its attempts to expand both into the educational/young reader graphic novel market and into Spanish-language graphic novels.

IDWP announced a multi-year agreement with the Smithsonian Institution to jointly develop and publish graphic novels leveraging the Smithsonian's unique cultural and scientific history and expertise. The Smithsonian is the world's largest museum, educational and research complex.

IDWP announced a Spanish language initiative to bring graphic novels to Spanish speakers throughout North America. To launch the initiative, IDWP is planning to release a Spanish translation of George Takei's best-selling memoir, "They Called Us Enemy" in June 2020.

Everything else was focused on television, though, of course, the intellectual property that fuels that endeavor must come from the comics first, so perhaps they can be viewed as a loss leader… in the eventuality that the TV shows do one day make a profit.

Check out the press release and charts below.

IDW Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Fiscal Year 2019 Results

Fourth Quarter Revenue Surges on Deliveries of "V Wars" and "October Faction" to Netflix

NEWARK, NJ and LOS ANGELES, CA / ACCESSWIRE / January 23, 2020 / IDW Media Holdings, Inc. (OTC PINK:IDWM), an integrated media company, today reported a fourth quarter net loss per share of $2.29 on revenue of $33.9 million and a full fiscal year net loss per share of $3.90 on revenue of $62.6 million for the three months and twelve months ended October 31, 2019, respectively.

Media Highlights

  • IDW Entertainment's (IDWE) "V Wars," a vampire science fiction horror series starring Ian Somerhalder and Adrian Holmes based on the IDW Publishing (IDWP) graphic novels by five-time Bram Stoker award-winning author Jonathan Maberry, debuted December 5, 2019 on Netflix.
  • IDWE's "October Faction," a science fiction drama starring Tamara Taylor and J.C. MacKenzie based on the IDWP comic series by Steve Niles – author of "30 Days of Night" – and digital artist Damien Worm, premieres this evening, January 23rd on Netflix. The "October Faction" season one trailers can be seen here.
  • "V Wars" and "October Faction" were both produced by High Park Entertainment in Toronto, Canada, maximizing local credits and incentives that minimized the series' net production budgets and out-of-pocket expenses.
  • IDWE's "Locke & Key," a supernatural horror drama based on the IDWP comic series by best-selling author and Eisner award winner Joe Hill, is scheduled to premiere on Netflix on February 7th. The "Locke & Key" season one trailer can be seen here.
  • Season four of IDWE's "Wynonna Earp," a live action Western horror drama and winner of the People's Choice Awards in 2018, starring E! Awards winner Melanie Scrofano and based on the IDWP comic series by Beau Smith, is now in production. Season four is expected to debut on SyFy during the second half of CY 2020.
  • IDWP announced a multi-year agreement with the Smithsonian Institution to jointly develop and publish graphic novels leveraging the Smithsonian's unique cultural and scientific history and expertise. The Smithsonian is the world's largest museum, educational and research complex.
  • IDWP announced a Spanish language initiative to bring graphic novels to Spanish speakers throughout North America. To launch the initiative, IDWP is planning to release a Spanish translation of George Takei's best-selling memoir, "They Called Us Enemy" in June 2020.

Comments of IDW's Chairman and CEO, Howard Jonas

"The unprecedented demand from streaming networks for fresh, innovative shows provides IDW with a tremendous market opportunity. Our IP portfolio, strong relationships with renowned creators and holistic approach to franchise development strategically positions IDW for near and long-term growth.

"With three new shows premiering on Netflix in a sixty-day span – and a fourth season of 'Wynonna Earp' debuting later this year on SyFy, IDW has come a very long way since entering the entertainment space just a few years ago. It has taken a lot of hard work and effort to build out these capabilities, and our team deserves tremendous credit for getting us here so quickly. With this foundation now in place, I am extremely excited about our ability to capitalize on this huge market opportunity. Our outlook has never been brighter.

"In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, revenue was boosted by delivery of 'V Wars' and the majority of the 'October Faction" episodes to Netflix, while the legacy production finance agreements utilized for these shows and production cost overages resulted in significant losses. The remaining impact of these legacy deals will be recognized in the first quarter fiscal 2020 results reflecting the delivery of the balance of 'October Faction' episodes to Netflix.

"Looking ahead, IDW Entertainment is delivering season one of 'Locke & Key' to Netflix and we expect that it will contribute to our bottom line in the first half of fiscal 2020.

"IDW is on track to attain steadily profitable operations in 2021 and beyond with prospective upside from potential renewals of IDW Entertainment's current line-up, from our previously announced deal with Cineflix and SyFy for distribution of 'Wynonna Earp', from new deals that the IDW Entertainment team is developing from its IP pipeline and from our focus on complete franchise monetization through merchandising, games, video on demand, and other fandom-driven channels. We are working to ensure that all divisions of IDW operate profitably by fiscal 2021.

"With our improving financial and operational outlook, we are exploring listing IDW on a national stock exchange to enhance our visibility, increase liquidity in the market for our stock, and broaden our shareholder base. In conjunction with the up-list, we intend to raise additional growth capital to further strengthen our balance sheet and to pursue the abundant growth opportunities afforded by the intensifying competition among streaming services for original content.

"Buckle your seat belt and stay tuned for exciting news during fiscal 2020, and don't forget to check out the 'October Faction' premiere tonight on Netflix."

$17.1 Million: The Amount of Money IDW Lost in 2019

$17.1 Million: The Amount of Money IDW Lost in 2019

Financial Take-Aways and Outlook

  • Revenue Increase: IDWE delivered season one of "V Wars" and seven of ten episodes of season one of "October Faction" to Netflix during the fourth quarter driving an increase in consolidated revenue to $33.9 million in 4Q19 from $20.1 million in 4Q18, and to $62.6 million in FY 2019 from $58.7 million in FY 2018. Note that revenue and amortized production expenses for each series are recognized upon delivery of episodes to the client.

  • Loss from Operations: IDW's consolidated loss from operations decreased to $17.2 million in 4Q19 from $21.7 million in 4Q18. The 4Q19 loss primarily reflects the production costs and related overages of "V Wars" and of the seven episodes of "October Faction" IDW delivered in the quarter as well as a write-down of the carrying value of Dirk Gently, which was not renewed. The full fiscal year loss from operations increased to $26.4 million in 2019 from $25.6 million in 2018.

  • Legacy Impacts in FY 2020:

    • In 1Q20, IDW expects to realize a loss of approximately $2.6 million on the delivery of the remaining three episodes of "October Faction" to Netflix.
    • In 2H20, IDW expects to invest in certain distribution rights to enhance its international franchise sales effort.
    • Finally, IDW may incur restructuring expense in FY 2020 as it seeks to attain consistently profitable operations in each of its three operating divisions.
  • Return to Profitability:

    • In FY 2020, IDW expects to generate improved financial performance inclusive of the legacy impacts noted above and the positive EBITDA contribution from the delivery of season one of "Locke & Key."
    • In FY 2021, IDW anticipates that the company and each of its three businesses will operate profitably.
  • Balance Sheet Highlights: IDW's cash balance at October 31st was $10.2 million. Related party debt was $9.1 million. Following the quarter close, the terms of the $4.6 million current portion of this debt were modified and the entire balance will be reported as long-term debt in 1Q20. Bank loans of $39.7 million (the balance of 'bank loans payable' including current and non-current liabilities) that financed 'V Wars' and 'October Faction' production costs will be paid in full from license fees during CY 2020.

About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.

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