Chicken Soup Boils for the Public but Investors Turn Down the Heat

If you were of book-buying age in the 1990’s you will likely recall when Chicken Soup for the Soul (CSS) hit the stands.  It was everywhere (grocery markets, drug stores, train stations, airports); it seemingly came from out of nowhere to become (bam!) an instant phenomenon.  Self-help books were becoming very popular as a whole in the 1990’s but with its tales of miracles and magical moments none seemed to resonate with the public’s craving for hope and inspiration quite as much as CSS.

The books have consistently been New York Times bestsellers, it was on the list continuously from 1994 to 1998. It also holds the Guinness Book of World Record, for ‘Most Books on the New York Times best-seller list at one time’ in 1999.  The company has sold over 110 million copies in the United States and Canada alone, and more than half a billion worldwide. (source)

Over the past couple decades CSS has spread its wings and taken flight.  There are Chicken Soup for the Soul books for everything from multitasking to miracles, every imaginable group (including cats, dogs, angels, teachers, the overweight, adoptive and biological parents, people recovering from serious ailments like breast cancer and brain injuries, children, preteens, teenagers, senior citizens, divorced people, married people, golf and hockey fans and military families) and every imaginable internal state (dreaming, forgiving, hoping, imagining, positive thinking, aspiring and achieving) to name a few.

But they didn’t stop at books.  In a curious 2004 move, the company launched a line of pet food products. And in a move that seemed like a more natural expansion, Chicken Soup for the Soul has now gone on to become “Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc.” According to their company write-up, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. is “a rapidly growing producer and distributor of high-quality television and online video programming that delivers hope, comfort and positivity.”

In 2016, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. signed an exclusive distribution deal with A Plus, a website founded by actor Ashton Kutcher (and his ‘extensive celebrity influencer network’), to distribute CSS video content worldwide.

And in March 2017, CSS expanded its wings even further when Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment launched the “CSS Network”, “a branded entertainment network, with the goal of reaching more consumers and enabling them to view our growing library of Chicken Soup for the Soul original and third-party video content through our own subscription-based or advertising-supported online networks.” (source)

With Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Inc.’s reported total revenue of $8.1 million in 2016 (up nearly five fold from the previous year), Chicken Soup for the Soul has truly has gone from being a book into becoming an entire industry.  It seemed like a logical next step then for Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Inc. to offer itself up to investors. And that is exactly what they did.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Inc. filed for an IPO under the ‘Regulation A+ Tier 2’ offering which allows smaller companies to raise up to $50 million from non-institutional investors like crowdfunding websites and fans.  With great anticipation, CSS had initially planned to sell 900,000 shares for $12 apiece, with an option to sell up to 1.6 million additional shares in case of oversubscription. (source)

While the company sold a total of 2.5 million shares, raising $30 million in proceeds, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Inc (CSSE.O) fell as much as 14 percent in debut on Friday, giving up all their early gains. (Shares rose as much as 10.5 percent to $13.26, above the $12 IPO price, but reversed course thirty minutes into trading.) (source)

As IPO expert and professor at the University of Florida, Jay Ritter explained:

“…there are questions about the company’s valuation and growth potential.”


Oh, say it ain’t so, Professor Ritter.  You mean the country’s interest in Chicken Soup may finally be growing tepid?

Well, for their sake, let’s hope not.  Because the Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment Inc. company expects to use the proceeds to “repay debt”.   Repay debt?  Are you kidding?  With revenue last year of $8.1 million dollars maybe the next Chicken Soup for the Soul  book and video needs to be for “people who can’t use a calculator”.