Publishing company Simon & Schuster, previously owned by ViacomCBS, will be sold to Penguin Random House for a little over $2 billion, it was reported today.
What does that mean for manga, exactly? A lot, potentially. S&S distributes manga released by Viz Manga. Meanwhile, Penguin Random House distributes manga by Seven Seas, Kodansha USA, Square Enix Manga & Books, Dark Horse Comics and Vertical. All those companies will now come under one distribution roof.
For analysis, we turn to a thread by Ed Chavez, formerly of Vertical and now the big boss over at DENPA. Chavez describes the coming situation as a “megamonopoly” and says a “big flattening” is on the way.
Welp so with S&S being sold to RH…
Mango distro has a megamonopoly goong.
RH now distros:
The only pubs left:
Big flattening of the marketing coming.
— Mango Chill 2020 (@MangaCast) November 25, 2020
Chavez says when there are more distributors, there are more chances for sellers to pitch various books to various retailers. With just one giant distro, and therefore just one marketing person (or team) representing a huge chunk of the market, there are fewer pitch meetings. Those meetings “mostly focus on what sells or what pubs hope will sell… anything else gets left to fend on its own.”
In other words, fewer pitch meetings mean fewer chances to talk up interesting niche titles. Sure, there are still online retailers and reviews, but many consumers still discover unique manga they wouldn’t otherwise by physically browsing the shelves. With the flattening, we may see bestsellers dominate the shelves and interesting niche titles disappear.
We’ll have to wait and see if this turns out to be the case in 2021, when the Simon & Schuster sale is expected to be completed.