ICv2 talked with DC’s Executive Vice President of Sales Marketing and Business Development John Rood and Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne about December sales and plans for the “New 52” in 2012.  Rood and Wayne informed ICv2 that in April DC will be offering “digital combo-packs” for two additional titles, Detective Comics and Green Lantern, which will join Justice League, Batman, and Action Comics as titles offered both alone and in digital combo packs that cost a dollar more and include codes for a digital copy.  Rood and Wayne also explained that Detective Comics and Batman will become 40-page books in April with a cover price of $3.99 ($4.99 for the digital combo pack version).  They also indicated that there might well be some cancellations of the poorest performing "New 52" titles in the not too distant future.

What are the announcements you are making today?
John Rood:  We are announcing two new combo pack titles starting in April: Detective Comics and Green Lantern.  Since they are top sellers of ours, we think there is an audience opportunity to add them to "combo-pack" title list along with Justice League, Batman, and Action Comics.  But we are not upping the price because of the inclusion of the digital redemption codes, there is going to be an increase in page count to 40 book pages.  We are still holding the line at $2.99 with 46 titles at that price.  That’s why it’s crazy that we are doing as well as we are in dollar share when our sales are driven by $2.99 titles and no one else’s share is.  So it’s about bringing some interesting skus to the market for retailers, but only those titles that have proven to be sales successes.  Bob, do you have anything to add?
Bob Wayne:  I would just say we have a clear difference in philosophy on this from some of our competitors in that with us the retailer has the right to decide whether to carry the version that has the digital codes with it (and thus potentially sharing the customer with us as a digital consumer) versus having the codes in every copy of a certain title as is the case with some publishers who give the retailer no choice but to carry comics with the codes.
So, to clarify, the DC comics that come with the codes are priced a dollar more than DC’s other titles, $3.99 versus $2.99?
Bob Wayne:  Yes, that’s true, but at the same time we are increasing the page count on the physical comics for Detective Comics and Batman.

So will the cover price of the titles that have been bumped to 40 pages be raised on the versions without the digital content?
Bob Wayne:  Yes, the 40-page comics will be $3.99 and the copies with the digital codes will be $4.99.
You are making these moves because the programs have been successful?
Bob Wayne:  Well we added the combo packs to Detective Comics and Green Lantern because the program has been successful, but adding the pages to the individual titles was done as much for editorial/story reasons as anything else.  I think that we will be revealing story and creator details on the expansion (to 40 pages) of Detective Comics and Batman early next week.
Did the non-comic store channels perform differently on the "New 52" than they do typically?
Bob Wayne:  The non-comic store channels had a burst of sell-through during the first couple of months when the comic shops were struggling to get enough copies.  Certainly there were a few people who picked up comics in the newsstand market, and so our sell-through was better than normal.  It didn’t represent a long term change in customer behavior, just a migration related to the shortages and spot outages in the direct market, in the same way that were similar shifts in buying patterns twenty to twenty-five years ago whenever there were similar outages in the comic shops.  This sort of thing has happened before.
So it’s a fairly typical pattern given the outages—the "New 52" is not performing that differently in the other channels—is that correct?
Bob Wayne:  Yes, the only long term historical difference going back before John was in the industry is that we no longer have the phenomenon of people trying to go in and buy up a local ID’s (newsstand distributor) entire allocation of a particular hot title, because there’s not that many copies even allocated at the ID level.  There are not enough copies out there to make that even a reasonable play.
One other question—you are in a situation where you have re-launched your entire line, they all started as "number ones," and though the attrition in the orders may be better than normal as the months roll on, sales are bound to decline.  How do you plan to keep 2012 from being only reflective of that decline and create a stable sales situation?
John Rood:  Well I think there is going to be more news across the universe of the "New 52."  We are going to be mindful of what titles are not selling well enough to keep them in the mix.  I was surprised that we have made it through 2011 without having to discuss any replacements.  It was much longer than I had personally expected, but it’s an inevitability since we don’t plan to allow any decay or decline to continue unaddressed.
We had heard that you were going to give the new titles a year to prove themselves, is that correct?
Bob Wayne:  At the retailer roadshows I believe we were discussing five or six months as the amount of time we were going to give everything and we are certainly beyond that point now, so it’s the right time for us to be looking at titles, but as John said, the idea that we have gone this far without any announced changes is still pretty dramatic because that is a large number of titles, and we have been really enthusiastically cheered and helped by the level of acceptance that we have at retail from consumers and fans.