It may not be as large as Netflix or Hulu, but DC Universe is one of the more fascinating streaming experiments currently on the market. The ultra-niche service, which allows subscribers to access movies, TV, and comics from DC, is the first of its kind. However, whether it'll succeed is another point entirely.
The service has been at the forefront lately, mostly due to the cancellation of Swamp Thing, which was axed after only one episode (the rest of the season will stream as planned). This, along with the future of WarnerMedia's upcoming streaming service, means we've been wondering a lot about DC Universe and if it'll continue to quietly produce some of the most unique superhero shows on TV.
Some launch questions
One of the most important things streaming services need to consider before launch is their introductory slate. This is a basic tennant of business: what's the best version of your product you can put out there so customers will buy in? Can you convince people to pay for yet another subscription service on top of Netflix or Hulu or even Sling?
For example, the upcoming Disney+ will have a gigantic slate at launch, with a lot of content planned. Subscribers will get access to the new Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, on opening day and be able to watch the MCU's new TV shows. Users will also get access to Disney's huge catalog of movies, replacing the company's long history of limited DVD and home video releases.
DC Universe's launch was a bit more... subdued, to say the least. Early announcements said that the service would have the new original series Titans and the third season of Young Justice (the animated series was originally canceled in 2013). Over the following months, more original content was announced — Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, a Harley Quinn half-hour animated series, Stargirl, and even a Superman prequel series called Metropolis (not to be confused with Krypton, another Superman prequel that you can watch on DC Universe). There's also DC Daily, a, well, daily discussion-based talk show breaking down the latest news.
However, Titans' marketing and the subsequent fan backlash wasn't doing the show, which is actually a solid adaptation, any favors. As the first show to launch on the platform, it was imperative that it stick the landing. We don't have exact viewing numbers, but Screen Rant reported that the show did better as it went along, peaking in viewership by the finale. The second show, Doom Patrol, was a critical darling, with a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Overall, it's a decent lineup for a niche service that's also offering up parts of its large catalog of movies, TV shows, and comics. For DC fans, the access is appealing. To anybody else, it might not be worth the price: $7.99 per month or $74.99 per year. A basic Hulu package costs a buck less per month than DC Universe and offers much more content.
Is it worth the price?
Whether the monthly or annual bill will be worth it to you depends on how much you plan on using the service. Personally, since I like the live-action originals like Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing, the price seems worth it, at least as a way for me to support Doom Patrol and help it get a season renewal. However, it might be something I cancel once the shows aren't airing new episodes (it's what I do with HBO and CBS All Access currently). I'll occasionally watch reruns of Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League Unlimited, but they're available elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the backlog isn't complete. You can't watch any of the recent DC live-action movies, for instance, and the service only just recently got access to its full comics backlog. This is mostly likely due to licensing agreements with Warner Bros., but that's a lot of missed opportunities for fans of Zack Snyder's Justice League movies or Wonder Woman.
Another issue comes with how to watch it. You can get the app on Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, and Amazon Fire TV, but you'll be stuck with your computer if you don't have any of those options.
The question of how successful DC Universe has been since launch is tough to answer, but in the two weeks following its launch in September 2018, things weren't looking promising. According to Sensor Tower, the app was installed by an estimaed 143,000 users via the App Store and Google Play. However, those numbers dropped over the next few weeks, with Sensor Tower estimated that only around 24% of the installs "resulted in paid users."
There hasn't been any official word on the future of the service, but a few things are putting that question into perspective.
This is standard for any new service, since people want to test the waters before investing. Pokemon Go, for instance, lost 15 million players in the span of four weeks near its launch in 2016.
I haven't been able to find any official numbers posted since that report, but at the time of this writing, DC Universe is ranked #22 out of Amazon's on-demand movie streaming apps, #90 on Roku's most watched apps, and doesn't rank at all on the iOS App Store entertainment charts.
There hasn't been any official word on the future of the service, but a few things are putting that question into perspective. Swamp Thing was canceled a mere five days after the first episode debuted and a few reasons have been passed around — from WarnerMedia executives not having faith in the series to paperwork issues in North Carolina where the show was filming.
There's also the weird silence from the service. Beyond the Titans season renewal, there hasn't been much news from executives on any new original shows or plans. This could be because of the executive shakeup over at WB
As of right now, DC Universe seems to be trucking along as planned. Stargirl is still in development and set to debut in 2020 and Titans was renewed for a second season. However, things might change in the coming months.
How does this tie in with the Warnermedia service?
WarnerMedia's upcoming streaming service is still unnamed and as of this writing, and it's unclear how DC Universe will or won't be a part of that. Deadline reported that the service is being "reevaluated" following the acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T (although the article also notes that other "initiatives" are being evaluated, too).
As of right now, DC Universe seems to be trucking along as planned.
It's a huge question mark in regards to the future of streaming, but The Hollywood Reporter notes sources that suggest a few outcomes. "Sources say DCU fare could be folded into the WarnerMedia service, remain exclusive to its own platform or employ a windowing strategy between the two brands," the article says. "DCU executives, for their part, have yet to receive clarity on how the dueling platforms could co-exist."
WarnerMedia has been experiencing a revolving door of executives over the past few months, so decisions originally set into place might change.
For now, we'll continue to follow news regarding DC Universe. We're hoping that it can continue in some form.