At first glance, the above headline only has an impact on collectors of current US-published DOCTOR WHO material but - actually - it goes deeper than that.
IDW is a US comic book publisher which, thanks to a number of major licenses (including STAR TREK, 2000AD characters and the Hasbro toy properties) and a strong raft of original (or revived) properties, that has been publishing DOCTOR WHO comics (including a notable TREK crossover) for the past few years.
However, because Panini already has the UK license (not to mention the BBC's own DOCTOR WHO ADVENTURES for the kids), unless you frequent the right sort of comic book store (or buy the trade paperbacks on Amazon), you're likely to be none-the-wiser. It's been a mystery to me for a while why Panini haven't licensed the reprint rights, combined them with their own WHO back catalogue (dating back to Marvel UK's DOCTOR WHO WEEKLY in 1979 and - possibly - earlier as I think Marvel UK, in the nineties, acquired the rights to various older strips dating back to the sixties) and issued one of their COLLECTORS' EDITION titles.
Anyhow, it was announced last week that IDW was loosing the license from the end of this year. Quite why - and who made the decision to terminate - is still something of a mystery. One of IDW's sidelines has been to reissue much of the Marvel UK back catalogue, newly coloured, in regular comics and an assortment of book forms (not to be confused - and this could be confusing - with the long-running line of A4-sized Panini collections). These will presumably end - or reboot in some way - when the license ends. Which is a shame because, although not essential if you have the Panini editions (unless you want to see the strips in colour) or - for that matter - any of the previous reprints of the The Iron Legion, the collections were rather nice.
Where will the license go next? At the time of writing, no-one seems sure although there seems to be several interested parties. It seems unlikely that the license, and the chance to partner with the BBC on a global property, will stay dormant for long.
One of the names in the frame is TITAN COMICS, a newly-spawned spin-off from the books and magazines publisher (and owner of some of the FORBIDDEN PLANET chain, which means they normal sell new Titan books at a discount). Securing the license would certainly be a boost but - an associated rumour - is that they also want to add DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE to their media tie-in magazine line (which currently includes STAR WARS, STAR TREK, SUPERNATURAL and one-shot tie-ins to ONCE UPON A TIME and GRIM) either through a transfer of the license or by buying it from Panini. I find the idea slightly scary.
Titan's magazines are fine (I bought the latest STAR WARS one only yesterday) but they don't really have the depth, or passion, of DWM. Of course, if they do the deal, there's nothing to say the whole DWM team wont transfer and business-as-usual continue. But it doesn't bode well.
Titan tested the waters, and (I suspect) tried to build bridges with BBC Worldwide, by publishing a TORCHWOOD MAGAZINE (and some spin-off annuals and US-format comics) but - as fans will atest - it often seemed a pretty desperate affair. It was clear that the editors had no clear idea how to fill the pages (admittedly, TW gave them a lot less to work with) and it frequently looked as desperate as Marvel UK's own BLAKE'S SEVEN MONTHLY.
Titan also tend to only stick with a property whilst its hot. Their archive is packed full of titles that shuttered as soon as the show began to cool (SMALLVILLE, STARGATE, XENA, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, FARSCAPE etc. etc.) which - although WHO shows no obvious sign of waning - isn't great for the long-term.
Finally, I think Panini deserve kudos for sticking with WHO through thick-and-thin. Unlike Titan's track record, they kept DWM going (and continued to bankroll the regular comic strip) throughout the wilderness years (and didn't drop the license when they took over the M-UK operation - and shuttered the rest of the magazine line) and it would be a shame to see the license snatched away from them now.
I suspect Titan have looked at the WHO license before and - this time - with the chance to publish the magazine AND comics (as well as - potentially - books) there chances are surely better.
False alarm? Entirely possible. Maybe Panini will snaffle up the comics license themselves (possibly in partnership with Marvel) although that's not one of the rumours doing the rounds online. Maybe another publisher will enter the picture. Maybe the BBC don't actually want to see WHO comics (although that would seem a bit counter-intuitive, even for the Beeb).