It's official: Come next February, United Feature Syndicate will no longer distribute "Peanuts." After 60 years, Charlie Brown is moving to the syndicate Universal Uclick.
"We feel Universal is a natural partnership for us," Jean Schulz, wife of late "Peanuts" creator Charles M. "Sparky" Schulz, told Comic Riffs on Thursday. "They already handle our books, they have a strong presence in the marketplace and they have a great reputation."
"We have enjoyed our long association with 'Peanuts' since the comic strip started on October 2, 1950, and we wish the Schulz family all the best for the future," United Feature Syndicate said in a news release. "We value the incredible work ethic that Charles M. Schulz demonstrated creating Peanuts every day until he retired over 10 years ago."
Schulz died Feb. 12, 2000 -- the same weekend that his final original "Peanuts" strip appeared.
"We're honored to be able to represent 'Peanuts' and its tradition of brilliance," Universal Uclick President Lee Salem told Comic Riffs. "We believe the future of syndication -- in print, online and in mobile -- is especially promising for this timeless classic."
As Comic Riffs reported in April, United's parent, E.W. Scripps Co. had reached a deal to sell its United Media Licensing business -- including "Peanuts" -- to Iconix Brand Group for $175-million. This past summer, Scripps sold the Peanuts property to Peanuts Worldwide LLC, which is the joint venture of Iconix and Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates.
"We at United Feature Syndicate have been involved in negotiations with Peanuts Worldwide for the right to continue to syndicate and distribute the Peanuts comic strip to newspapers," the syndicate said in its announcement. "Unfortunately, we were not able to come to mutually agreeable terms, and as a result, United Feature Syndicate will no longer distribute the 'Peanuts' comic strip to newspapers, effective February 26, 2011."
United launched "Peanuts" on Oct. 2, 1950, in just seven U.S. newspapers. "Peanuts" is now syndicated to more than 2,200 newspapers in 75 countries.
Earlier this year, Jean Schulz told Comic Riffs that for decades, a goal of her husband's had been to gain rights of "Peanuts." At one point, that became "the biggest thing that he wanted," she said.
Now, she told 'Riffs, "Peanuts" is "playing catch-up" in terms of different media platforms within the marketplace. The plan is for the comic-strip franchise to be available on mobile devices -- including the iPod and iPad -- through the mobile interface of GoComics, which is Universal Uclick's comics web portal.
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