DC Universe Reportedly Not Shutting Down After HBO Max Launch

The Hollywood Reporter has details on the launch of HBO Max, WarnerMedia's new streaming service that is being positioned as a competitor to the Disney+ app and other branded, single-company streaming platforms. And it contains good news for DC Comics fans: at least for the time being, DC Universe will see no significant changes in its offerings or format as a result of the new streaming service from its parent company. DC Universe was mentioned in passing, along with HBO Now, HBO Go, and CW Seed -- all digital platforms owned by WarnerMedia. The report had no details other than that there would be no changes to the streamers for the time being.

CW Seed is an interesting case, in that while most of the network's most successful series are Warner Bros. TV properties, The CW itself is jointly owned by Warner Bros. and CBS. That means that, unlike DC Universe and the HBO apps, it is unlikely that Warner Bros. could make unilateral decisions about CW Seed even if they wanted to (although it should be stressed that, at least as of now, there is no indication that they do). CW Seed hosts a blend of original and archival programming, and many of its archival offerings (think Constantine and Birds of Prey, for instance) are self-evidently not exclusively held, since they already appear on CBS All Access or DC Universe.

The question of DC Universe's future has been raised almost since the series was announced in the first place. HBO Max, then an untitled streaming service, was already being discussed by experts in the entertainment space by the time DC Universe made its debut, and a lot of them asked whether WarnerMedia would allow a subsidiary company like DC Entertainment to effectively compete with their own marketplace. This, combined with a general sense that DC was struggling with its feature film offerings and behind-the-scenes management changes, led to a number of people assuming that DC Universe was doomed. What has followed since has been months of rumors, all of which ended up being denied by DC and Warner, that the service was in danger of being shut down at any moment.

The pitch of those rumors got particularly high with the cancellation of Swamp Thing. The series was being produced with a budget that included hefty production incentives from the state of North Carolina. When a law change slashed those incentives significantly, the show's episode order was abruptly cut, and a new ending had to be written. Shortly after that, the series was cancelled after only a single episode had aired to the public on DC Universe, and among the rumors that circulated was, you guessed it, "DC Universe is being re-evaluated." DC and Warner later denied this one, too.

The upshot here seems to be that while there may be a longer-term threat to DC Universe (and, for that matter, any other digital service provided by a WarnerMedia subsidiary), that threat is neither looming nor existential. The rumors are likely so persistent because there is just enough evidence to make some informed speculation -- and because a persistent narrative that DC is struggling permeates so much of the entertainment press.

WarnerMedia's HBO Max will debut in beta in Q4 2019 and officially launch next spring.