The Streaming Wars are underway with established players and upcoming contenders vying for subscriptions. However, one corner of this new world seems to be at odds with itself. HBO Max will debut at the end of the month, bringing with it a collection of movies, series, and originals based on DC characters. Yet, as comics fans know, DC Universe is already a streaming service dedicated to all things DC. Thus, the future of DC Universe is in question as parent company WarnerMedia focuses almost solely on HBO Max.
Thus far, DC Universe developed four original series. Their flagship show is Titans which only recently ended its second season. There is also Swamp Thing a show with promise that ended up cancelled before the full series even aired. Their next show Stargirl is set to debut first on DC Universe then on the CW a day later. Finally, Doom Patrol, the critical darling of the DC Universe, will see it’s future second season debut on HBO Max.
Image via Warner Bros.
People who subscribe to DC Universe, including your humble correspondent, know that original productions are the least of what the service offers. In terms of streaming content, fans can find entire collections of films and series based on DC Comics. There are classics like Batman: The Animated Series, feature films like Zach Snyder’s Watchmen, and all-but-forgotten shows like The Adventures of Superboy. Along with these, fans get access to thousands of back-issues of DC titles. Ever wonder what was in Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27? With DC Universe’s comics, you can read those and countless others.
Yet is this enough content for DC Universe to maintain subscription levels, especially with HBO Max (essentially) competing with it?
The Future of DC Universe and HBO Max Is … Complicated
Image via Warner Bros.
A new report from Business Insider features commentary from some behind-the-scenes sources, mostly former Warner Digital Labs employees and an original series crew member, about the future of the service. The Digital Labs employee told reporter their decision to leave the job came from uncertainty about the future of DC Universe with HBO Max on the horizon.
As they told Business Insider:
“Everything is about HBO Max now…. The feeling in the office is that DC Universe is going to be around for at least another year or two…. There’s commitment and funding.”
The crew member stated that their sense is that the higher-ups want DC Universe to remain separate from HBO Max for the foreseeable future. Yet, it will be “small” and the focus will be on Titans and spinoffs from that show. Doom Patrol started as a spinoff of Titans, but then the show ended up in its own continuity. However, future spinoffs would be connected to the show. A source with knowledge of the producers’ thinking who spoke to Comic Years last November told us that the focus was on spinoffs for the Hawk and Dove characters and Jason Todd’s eventual transformation into the Red Hood.
Originally, everyone assumed that DC Universe would be rolled into HBO Max, and the BI report shows that’s what employees thought as well. However, this hasn’t happened. In fact, HBO Max’s head of content Kevin Reilly said the company still has to “figure out those two subscriptions” but haven’t as the focus is on launching the HBO Max service.
Even With HBO Max, the Future of DC Universe Probably Lies With Comics
Image via DC Comics
While Titans is a better show than people initially thought (and getting better each season), the original streaming content shouldn’t be the biggest draw. DC Universe is a service for hardcore comics fans, and its library of comics are its best value. For the price of about three brand-new digital issues, fans can get access to an entire library of DC Comics. They add new issues each month, and fans read and reread their favorite stories.
A data analyst who spoke to BI said that while the comics are unique to the service, they don’t provide “a ‘compelling enough reason’” for people to stay subscribed long term. While he may be right, someone would have to devote all of their time in a month to read even a third of the titles available. For comics fans looking to read old favorites or discover new titles and characters, there is plenty there for them to enjoy. For example, if you are an Arrowverse fan looking to read all of the comics in that continuity you can spend $40 at the DC digital store or $8 for a DC Universe subscription. Of course, some of the greatest hits from DC, such as Vertigo titles or Watchmen are not available on the service.
So, if DC Universe has a future as a standalone service after HBO Max debuts, it will likely be focused on their comic selections. Otherwise, expect DC Universe’s library of original and rerun series and films to eventually make their way to HBO Max.
What do you think? Do you think DC Universe has a future in spite of HBO Max? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.