August 7, 2017 / 2:09 PM / 2 months ago

Netflix buys comics publisher Millarworld to feed films and TV

Actors Colin Firth (2nd R) and Taron Egerton (2nd L) pose with men dressed as British police constables on arrival for the premiere of the film 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' in Berlin February 3, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

(Reuters) - Netflix Inc on Monday said it has bought comics publisher Millarworld, bringing on board renowned comic book writer Mark Millar and a host of character franchises it can mine for TV shows and movies.

It is the first acquisition by Netflix, the 20-year-old streaming-video pioneer that is building a library of original series and films in a bid to hook new customers around the world.

Two of Millarworld’s best-known comics, “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman,” are not part of the deal, whose terms Netflix did not disclose.

The purchase of a character stable mimics the strategy of Walt Disney Co. Disney bought Marvel Studios in 2009 and has churned out blockbuster movies, TV series and toys based on its superheroes. Some Marvel shows run on Netflix.

Mark Millar, a Scottish writer and former Marvel employee, runs Millarworld with his wife, Lucy.

Three of Millarworld’s franchises - “Wanted,” “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” — have been adapted into films that have taken in nearly $913 million combined at global box offices.

Although “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” are not part of the deal, it does bring Netflix a range of other franchises across genres from science fiction to fantasy, plus superheroes and real-world characters.

“Mark is as close as you can get to a modern-day Stan Lee,” Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said in a statement, referring to the 94-year-old creator of comic book franchises such as “Spider-Man,” “Avengers” and “X-Men.”

Millar spent eight years at Marvel, where he developed comic books and story lines that resulted in movies such as “Logan” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

It is unclear if Netflix will spend the sums Marvel does on its movies, which can cost up to $250 million. Netflix’s development has focused on TV series and smaller budget movies, but it is moving toward big-budget films. It spent $90 million on the Will Smith movie “Bright,” due out in December.

The acquisition of Millarworld is likely financially immaterial to Netflix, Raymond James analyst Justin Patterson said via email. He said his research showed comic book adaptations draw large audiences on the streaming service.

Netflix last month reported second-quarter revenue of $2.79 billion and net income of $65.6 million.

Millarworld will continue to create and publish new stories and franchises under the Netflix label, the company said.

Netflix also could expand further into consumer products. The company has stepped into merchandising with apparel and other products related to “Stranger Things.”

Shares of Netflix rose 0.6 percent to $181.37 on Nasdaq.

(This version of the story has been refiled to fix typo in “franchises” in first sentence)

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Leslie Adler

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