News Corp. and HarperCollins Acquire Harlequin

HarperCollins New York, the publishing wing of the world’s largest media conglomerate, News Corp., recently acquired Harlequin Enterprises Canada, the massively profitable publisher of romance novels. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the deal will expand the markets and production of both publishers.

It should push romance novels into previously untapped markets while catering more effectively to the Harlequin fan base. The acquisition is expected to be finalized by September, for approximately $415 million.

The parties involved

Harlequin Enterprises is currently the largest romance novel publishing company in the world. The firm boasts more than $370 million in annual sales, in over 34 languages.

By contrast, Harpercollins publishes almost exclusively in English, and operates almost exclusively in the young adult novel industry. Their most successful venture was Veronica Roth’s recent book Divergent,which included a movie deal with Lionsgate Cinema.

HarperCollins is a subsidiary of News Corp., which holds a diverse portfolio of media interests, including newspapers and multiple television networks.

What the deal means for Harlequin fans

Fans of Harlequin’s romance novels are highly enthused about the news. In recent years, Harlequin’s sales have declined somewhat from their peak in the early 2000s due to competition from independent publishers and even individual authors such as John Davis.

The deal with News Corp. is expected to revitalize the publisher’s sales, and bring Harlequin into previously untapped home markets using the News Corp. conglomerate’s substantial resources.

That being said, Brian Murray, the chief executive of HarperCollins, was quick to assure readers that the push toward new markets would be tempered by a strong desire to keep older fans. He complimented the voracity of romance novel readers, saying, “The readers of romance books are some of the most voracious readers out there, with some reading between 50 and 100 books a year….”

Murray confirmed that Harlequin will continue to publish popular series, such as the “A Game of Seduction,” “Need You Now,” and “My Fair Billionaire” books. For more on Harlequin’s perspective, see the news story in the Toronto Star.

The angle for News Corp.

Meanwhile, HarperCollins has been steadily growing in recent years, with gains in genres from Fantasy to Christian Fiction. The company’s goal in acquiring Harlequin lies primarily in its desire to establish inroads with international retailers, as well as Wal-Mart, which last year alone was responsible for as much as 70% of Harlequin Publishing’s sales.

The deal is also going to allow HarperCollins to expand its publishing operations into as many as 16 new markets in other countries.

The digital connection

One of the biggest changes that will occur with HarperCollins and Harlequin is going to be both publishers’ transition into a more digital orientation. They will be publishing more novels geared for tablets and other digital media, as well as making deals and building relationships with prominent electronics manufacturers.

This move is expected both to reduce the cost of the books, and to reduce the overall environmental impact of both publishing houses.

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