What's Held DC Universe Back?
On paper, DC Entertainment’s DC Universe membership felt like a comic book fan’s dream come true. It had everything a fan could want. Their comic library is stacked to the brim with DC’s greatest story arcs and many of their new most popular releases with no extra costs. DC’s beloved animated series and movies were also available for streaming. To top it all off, the premium content gained several original live action series and the revival of the beloved Young Justice.
There's enough to get any DC fan to jump on board. But the streaming and digital comics platform is far from the earth-shattering success everyone was hoping for. What’s holding DC Universe back?
A HOPELESS COMPETITION
One of the common early concerns with the streaming service was its USA exclusivity. DC Universe, after being out for almost two years, is still only available in the United States. Netflix is in 190 different countries. Even newcomer Disney+ launched in the US, Canada, and Netherlands. And it continues to climb. Granted, it’s difficult to outstretch juggernauts like Netflix and Disney. But even niche streaming services surpass DC Universe. Crunchyroll, an anime streaming service, is currently available in 170 countries. Shudder, the young horror streaming platform, has expanded services to the UK, Canada, and Ireland. It’s not only streaming platforms that DC Universe is failing to compete with. ComiXology towers over DC Universe with access to Amazon.com and their worldwide network. And though comiXology makes subscribers pay extra to read most of their comics, DC Universe still lacks the number of readers they're privy to. DC may be arriving late to the game. They might not have all the benefits of parent companies. But should we call them underdogs with ties to huge international IP like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman? DC Universe’s, um, universe of characters and stories should find plenty of success worldwide. EXCLUSIVE CONTENT NOT SO EXCLUSIVE
One exciting aspect of DC Universe membership was their exclusive content. Live action shows like Titans, Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, and Stargirl would only be available on the platform. In addition, they announced a new season of the previously cancelled Young Justice animated series for the service. And their development of an adult animated series focused on fan-favorite Harley Quinn would give Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty a run for their money. These were the elements of DC Universe that would set it apart from their competitors. Until they weren’t. When Titans launched, it was available internationally on Netflix. They cancelled Swamp Thing before it could even finish its 13 episode run. Doom Patrol, after receiving praise in its first season, was announced to be also streaming on the upcoming HBO Max in its second season. Stargirl is releasing simultaneously on CW. And fans can soon catch up with Harley Quinn on Syfy. Subscribers drawn to DC Universe for their exclusive content can be forgiven for feeling duped. And there's a sore lack of other content that could excite these spurned fans. WHERE ARE THE MOVIES?
When it comes to the films, DC Universe seems to have an inconsistent rotating library. It’s had classics like the Tim Burton Batman films and Richard Donner's Superman films. But modern hits are nowhere to be seen. The Dark Knight trilogy, Joker, and DCEU films have helped keep DC's lights in recent years. But none of these entries being accessible on their so-called ultimate experience leaves a sour taste. And it’s where most of these films will be found that lies the ultimate issue. THE RISE OF HBO MAX
HBO Max is available for streaming as of May 27. While it’s not going to have all content available at launch, it has everything missing on DC Universe. Aquaman, Joker, Wonder Woman, and more will be a part of their film catalog. The acclaimed Watchmen series, which premiered on the HBO network, is of course going to be at the party. Geoff Johns and J.J. Abrams are developing original series based on DC’s Green Lantern and Justice League Dark. Not only will HBO Max be gaining DC Universe properties like Doom Patrol, but it’ll launch with what should’ve been at home on DC Universe. WHAT’S IN STORE? Despite signs pointing south, Warner Media announced that DC Universe subscriptions are still going strong. But who’s to say how long that will last? Decisions that would’ve allowed DC Universe to be a streaming titan (pun intended) are no longer possible. But that doesn’t mean it can’t survive, if not in some new form. This is pure speculation, but don’t be surprised if all of DC Universe’s animated and live action content get absorbed by HBO Max. When that happens, we’re likely to see the platform live on as a comic-centric service. If they become international, DC Universe could win over fans looking to pay less for digital comics. Or, perhaps, the DC Universe comic book library could find itself joining HBO Max’s features. This might be the least likely. Time will tell if this platform, initially full of promise, will live up to its aspirations. DC Universe is currently available for subscription in the United States.