As of this writing, which is 9 PM EDT Sunday July 12, the DC Universe streaming service is still alive. It’s home to some of the most entertaining superhero teevee programing around, in my opinion. I can’t speak for yours. But that thing coughing up blood all over your Wi-Fi is, sadly, the DC Universe streaming service. And it’s the fault of their own artistic success.
Aside from hospitals, the only place that has had a worse month than the DCU has been the White House. In fairly quick order, the service lost future first-run episodes of Stargirl to the CW, saw The Doom Patrol multicast on the pathetic HBO Max sinkhole, Harley Quinn also airing on Syfy and Canada’s Adult Swim, and is thought to be migrating to HBO Max as well. Titans remains, but might be severely undermined by DC’s new Gotham City Police show (not necessarily the final title) spinning out of The Batman movie the now filming in Europe.
Their DC Daily talk show has breathed its last. DCU said that was because of the Coronavirus plague. Gee, I wonder how Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Maher, Seth Meyers, Meet the Press, and a couple dozen other panel-format programs manage to do it. They are not going away. Hell, Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show has expanded to 45 minutes during all this, and it soon will be growing again to a full hour. Somehow, the virus only seems to have affected the talking head denizens of the DC Universe sinking streamer.
DCU’s sudden death spiral seems to be due to their relationship with one of the greatest farces in recent broadcast history: HBO Max. Very heavily promoted and launched just 42 days ago, Maxie goes out at $15 a month. Seriously. Compare that to Disney+ ($7), Netflix ($9), Hulu ($6), and a host of others. NBCUniversal’s Peacock goes up any second now with three tiers: free, a premium service for $5 a month and a mostly ad-free all-inclusive service for $7. If they’re running T.H.E. Cat reruns, I’m there.
The problem is, HBO Max ain’t got squat. There are lots of big name teevee shows and movies that we’ve seen elsewhere, and many of them will continue to run elsewhere until their contracts expire. They won’t be streaming their various HBO and Cinemax cable channels, so if you want to watch Perry Mason as it airs you’re going to have to continue to pay your cable company a fortune each month.
Their new programming is a lot like The Shadow: you can’t see it, but you can hear it gently cackling in the breeze. Once again parent company WarnerMedia is blaming “The Plague,” but damn, I sure as hell see a lot of original programming on those other streaming services. Maybe they’ll run out as this nightmare continues, but HBO Max started out with tumbleweed and a handful of newly-made Looney Tunes… which, to be fair, are better than I had expected.
So HBO Max sent out an email to all the DC Universe subscribers: we can add Max for a mere $5 more each month. But if you look closely, that deal runs only six months. What happens after six months?
WarnerMedia has to feed HBO Max pretty damn soon; streaming customers have been quick to quit. So where do they go?
Hmmmmm… well, seeing what’s been going on with DCU these past several weeks, I’d say that whale is going to get gobbled up by the minnows at HBO Max.
The real question is, will HBO Max last long enough to finish its meal? WarnerMedia is a part of AT&T, and AT&T is paying enough debt service for their acquisition of the Time Warner Company’s remains to strangle a third-world nation. Given their massive promotion, I suspect they have a sufficient number of subscribers right now to keep upper-management from jumping out their windows… but, as I noted, streamer subscribers are quick to split if they’re not getting their money’s worth. And six months from now, say around the time of the presidential inauguration, it’s hard to see where all that nifty new stuff will have come from… even if they give DCU subscribers an extension on their add-on rate when they fold it into the Max.
If there’s still an HBO Max in six months. Is Qubi still on?