On this episode of Nerd & Tie we discuss the tragic loss of young actor Anton Yelchin, the rather craptastic new fan film guidelines put out for Star Trek by Paramount and CBS, The CW leaving Hulu behind, Tyler Hoechlin’s casting as Superman on Supergirl, the new Ghostbusters theme by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott, and how Wizard World finally came to their senses and cancelled their ridiculous cruise.
And yeah, the video on this version is pretty janky thanks to a software upgrade. We swear we’ll fix it for next time.
Earlier this year, convention juggernaut Wizard World announced that they were going to start a convention on a cruise ship. Scheduled for December 2nd-5th, they were planning to put a full convention on the cruise ship The Norwegian Sky.
Since the initial announcement, the guest line up changed repeatedly (I don’t think anyone was super surprised when Norman Reedus cancelled), but it seemed to be chugging along. The fact that it cost $749 to attend the event though was a major deterrent for a lot of people. Probably too many people.
This week Wizard World quietly announced the convention cancellation on the Cruise’s official website, citing issues with guests schedules as the primary reason. It’s a reason I don’t really buy, mind you, as the event had handled earlier guest cancellations without issue. New guests would have been fairly easy to book for the event.
Frankly (and this is just speculation) this probably has more to do with Wizard World’s ongoing financial issues which led to the resignation of John Macaluso as Wizard World CEO earlier this year. The cruise was a ridiculously expensive proposition, and I’m sure most people balked at the price tag. While geek cruises, like the JoCo Cruise, can work, trying to put an entire Wizard World style convention on a ship was a pretty terrible idea.
Cancelling it is the first real hope I’ve had that Wizard World may finally be making smart financial decisions again.
On this episode of Nerd & Tie we discuss Pearl Mackie’s casting as the new Doctor Who companion, Neil Gaiman is adapting Good Omens for Television, Syfy has ordered Krypton to pilot, Inhumans is off of Marvel’s schedule, John Macaluso has stepped down as the CEO of Wizard World, and Fox plans on skipping this year’s San Diego Comic Con.
BleedingCool is reporting that Wizard World’s John Macaluso has resigned from both his position as CEO and his seat on the company’s board. The following letter was reportedly submitted to the Board of Directors last week:
The company is scaling back its operations in 2016, and has sold off most of its stake in the poorly thought out ConTV. Frankly the company tried to grow far too fast and oversaturated an increasingly competitive market.
The company made a lot of mistakes in 2015, and it looks like Macaluso is the one who’ll take the blame.
In the middle of last year, we reported that Wizard World wasn’t having the best year. Well those losses didn’t stop, and according to ICv2 things got worse — with their total 2015 losses totally almost $4.3 million.
The losses can be blamed on a couple of factors, most notably their aggressive attempts to expand to more and more shows (despite per-show profits dropping). These rising costs, plus the apparent money pit that is their video streaming television channel ConTV, hit the company pretty hard.
Wizard World has scaled back their shows in 2016, suspending their operations in quite a few cities (although that hasn’t stopped them from pitching some weird ass ideas). Rather than the 25 shows they ran in 2015, 2016 will only see 19 cons (in 17 cities). Frankly, market saturation is a looming problem as more and more players try to get into conventions, especially with the large comic con style shows that Wizard World favors.
And I think they finally discovered what the breaking point was.
Over the last few years, Wizard World has been on a binge of expansion, launching new events in city after city. And while they’ve started to scale back this year, cutting shows that weren’t as financially viable, they’re still milking that ambitious streak. Having tried out almost every major American city at this point, Wizard World has set their sights on a new venue…
Yesterday Wizard World announced they have partnered with Rose Tours to run the “Wizard World Cruise.” The ocean-bound event will take place December 2nd-5th later this year on board the ship The Norwegian Sky, launching from Miami. The event will feature most of the standard convention features like a cosplay contest, panels, an artist alley and a vendor room. Guests include The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus, Barry Bostwick, and (of course) Ernie Hudson.
It’s a con. On a boat.
While it’s definitely not the first geek cruise, and probably not even the first attempt to put a full convention on a boat, it is the first time a large promoter like Wizard World has attempted to do so. I’m honestly not sure how well plopping a show like this on the ocean will work, but it’s interesting to find out what will happen.
Packages to attend start at $749, which limits the appeal (and I’m trying to figure out how it would make economic sense for most artists in the Artist Alley), but it might end up being a fun time. Also, is it really that high a price to pay for an opportunity to bite Norman Reedus in a setting where he can’t escape?
Wizard World has been aggressively expanding over the last few years (they’re up to like 24 conventions), and this has taken a toll on the organization financially. The company, while profitable in 2014, posted a first quarter loss of $980,000 this year… and things haven’t gotten better. Wizard World’s second quarter numbers are out, and they’ve posted another loss — this time for $1.8 million.
For those of you doing the math, that means Wizard World has lost $2.78 million this year so far.
Wizard World cites their rapid expansion as the reason for the loss, but only time will tell on whether these new shows will stick — as their average revenue per show has dropped since last year. Wizard World shows are a confusing beast and rarely draw from the same base that normally attends cons these days. Content has been drifting away from comics and trying to embrace pop culture programming and guests. This brings in larger numbers and a more mainstream crowd, but these are also less loyal consumers.
Customers who may be tired of paying the high entry price that comes with this focus.
As the market becomes more saturated and prices go up, you end up with burn out. I mean, Wizard World Wisconsin in Madison went well from all accounts, but these same attendees wouldn’t have that far a drive to get to Wizard World’s flagship con in Chicago. At some point these events begin to cannibalize each other’s numbers — especially when they cost so much.
I’m a regular reader of Tony Troxell’s blog Geeking in Indiana, as — well– I’m a geek in Indiana. Earlier today, a post on his blog reminded me of Indianapolis’s rather interesting problem: It is now hosting two almost identical conventions.
In 2014 Imaginarium LLC (a company based out of Florida) ran “Indiana Comic Con” for the first time. It was a surprising success for a first year convention, drawing a five digit attendance figure. Part of its success can be attributed to the region’s previous lack of a large media con (with all the high profile guest trappings), as Gen Con was previously the only other large scale event in Indianapolis.
It’s almost a year later, and quite a bit has changed. The calendar once vacant of attempts at running big media events has gotten a lot more crowded. Between trying to pay attention to IndyPopCon and the failed Awesome Con Indianapolis, you would likely be forgiven if you thought that next weekend’s Indianapolis Comic Con was the follow up to 2014’s surprising event.