ComiXology has launched a subscription-based comics service, providing a robust all-you-can-read option for a $5.99 monthly subscription fee.  Like Amazon Prime, the subscription-based service of comiXology’s parent company, comiXology Unlimited will exist alongside comiXology’s longstanding DTO (download-to-own) service.  The service will be targeted both at core comic customers, for whom comiXology Unlimited will allow unlimited trial of new books, and neophytes, who will have the opportunity to be exposed to lots of popular content, including media tie-ins, with the hope that they’ll become regular comics purchasers.

Similar to the way video releases cycle through streaming services, releases on comiXology Unlimited may be windowed, depending on the publisher and title, so that subscribers can be exposed to new series but will then be incented to buy some DTO content from that series as well.

"It’s just like you look at Prime," comiXology CEO David Steinberger told ICv2.  "Vikings Season 1 and 2 is on there, and Season 3 is for purchase.  So if you’re not committed to the whole thing you can go on sampling for eternity.  There’s so much content on there you have a starting point for a tremendous amount of series… Do we think people are going to start buying because they’re going to find at least one series that they’re going to want more?  I believe they will, because I believe in comics."

Although absent the Big Two, the publisher roster includes the next five publishers in size, two manga publishers, and other important companies.  Announced participants include Image, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM!, Dynamite, Kodansha, Oni, Valiant, Archie, Fantagraphics, Humanoids, Action Lab, Aspen, and Zenescope.

"We’ll probably add publishers," Steinberger said.  Asked whether Marvel and DC were offered the chance to participate, he responded, "I’m going to keep that confidential…  Obviously we love Marvel and DC and continue to sell their products a la carte, and are always happy to have them as partners."

One big issue with music streaming, in particular, has been that the revenue to the record companies and ultimately to the creators has been a fraction of the revenue from other distribution channels.  Surprisingly, revenues to the music industry from vinyl are higher than from those billions of streams from YouTube.  We asked Steinberger whether the comiXology Unlimited model was structured in a way that would allow publishers, and ultimately creators, to preserve their overall revenues.  "We are fully aligned with publishers both to make money on this service and on a la carte," he said.  "Everyone’s going to make more money when more people are reading, and this service is a hugely important part of spreading the love of comics and an important part of increasing revenue for everybody.  At $5.99 [monthly subscription cost], we leave plenty of money for your a la carte purchases."

Retailers participating in comiXology’s Digital Storefront program can sell comiXology Unlimited subscriptions at a significant commission level:  three months’ subscription cost if the customer remains subscribed for three months or more.

"I continue to believe that we need to be, for the health of the market segment, a non-disruptive force," Steinberger said.  "We love comics, we want more comics to be made, we want creators to be rewarded, we want them to be focused on making more great creations for more people to get into comics to have more diversity.  That’s the kind of circle of life that I’d love to see in this marketplace.  And you know, it’s very difficult when all the risk sits upon the brick and mortar retailer.  This can be a gateway, at a very inexpensive price, to get customers to end up at their local retailer buying trades and hardcovers and their monthly comics.  And payment to the retailers that participated as an affiliate seemed super-important and absolutely the right thing to do."