E&P reports that E.W. Scripps, the parent company of comic strip syndicate United Media, is considering spinning off their licensing business, United Media Licensing, which handles Peanuts, Dilbert, and other comic strip giants. Although these brands continue to be recognized worldwide, Scripps licensing revenues fell 15% in 4Q 2009, to $26.4 million.
Scripps President and CEO Rich Boehne said the process of exploring alternatives is just that, an exploration.
“We recognize that ‘exploring strategic options’ often is a euphemism for ‘sale,’ but this truly is an exercise to determine if these properties would be more valuable with another owner,” he said in a statement. “If not, we’ll continue to nurture the characters as we have for decades.”
Scripps is exploring the possibility of a sale becauase of recent interest and activity in the market for character-based properties, he said.
A press release with Scripps’ latest financials can be found here. Scripps is the kind of old-timey media conglomerate whose portfolio of newspapers and TV stations looked unassailable in the pre-internet era, but is looking very forlorn these days — newspaper advertising alone fell 20 percent last year. As one of the bright spots — despite the decline last year — selling United Media Licensing is obviously a way to raise capital in these continuing parlous times. Boehne’s comment reveals that interest continues to be high in strong comics brands, despite problems in other segments.