DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio is concerned that the direct market is oversaturated with comic books, which may have led to a decline in sales from 2016 to 2017. DiDio and his colleague, co-Publisher/CCO Jim Lee, were asked about the reported 6.7% drop in year-to-year sales.
"My fear is that there's probably an oversaturation of product," DiDio told ICv2. "If you're looking at the numbers, you're looking at 400 new periodicals a month. I can't even imagine the number of collections that come out a month. It's overwhelming."
According to Diamond Comic Distributors, in June 2018 DC published 73 original comic books to Marvel's 83 - with the North American Direct Market as a whole producing 437 that month.
"If you're looking at the expansion of the market, we keep on seeing new companies being introduced every day. They seem to be coming out with a much stronger amount of content, right coming out of the gate," DiDio continued. "It's not a slow buildup, these guys are coming out on the ground running. I think that's probably adding that burden onto the retailers, not just the product line that we do. Like we said, we're pretty consistent with what we put out, but there’s just this constant introduction of new material and new companies that they're constantly having to choose from."
That being said, Lee said DC's 2018 comic book print runs have "exceeded our forecast" after a down year in 2017.
"On the front-list side, some of our print runs were not as high as before. There's some softness in that category in general," said Lee. "That said, this year, periodical numbers have been exceeding our forecast, they've rebounded very, very sharply, very, very strongly for us."
It's not just the higher number of comic books in the marketplace that is changing the landscape, but also the recent price increases.
"There's still a finite dollar in the marketplace, at least in the direct marketplace, that we see it recycles through," DiDio continued. "The base price for periodical comics now is $3.99, for the most part. I have to believe that some of that money goes to buying books at a higher price [rather] than buying a wider set of books that are out there."
The changes in the market is what led to DC's recently-announced initiatives in other areas with DC Ink, DC Zoom, and DC Black Label.
"We're just keeping an eye on the market itself. That's one of the reasons why we're trying different initiatives in other areas, because if there is a sense of contraction taking place, then we've got to show growth in areas that we think there's opportunity, like the young adult market," said DiDio.