WarnerMedia is apparently less keen on fan-favorite original content and programming and instead would prefer to bolster its upcoming streaming service with more family-friendly shows in the hope the service will appeal to a wider audience.
One of the likely casualties of this approach is DC Universe.
The information on this is based on a new report that credits "several people close to" the production of 'Swamp Thing' for the information.
'Swamp Thing' is one of the latest web-based shows to become available through the all-in-one DC Universe, and in the last few days had been canceled. This is in spite of only one episode having been shown so far and the show already garnering an 8.4 user review score on IMDb.
The sources in this latest report makes it clear that the writing was on the wall for the show long before the first episode aired. In fact, ever since AT&T and WarnerMedia executives first saw the show.
Apparently, the executives did not feel the direction of the show was right for the service and this initially led to a reduction in the episode count, as well as various rewrites. However, it seems the redoing of the show in the way WarnerMedia wanted failed to ignite any further interest in the show.
While this might have just been a 'Swamp Thing' issue, the same sources point to the far more fundamental issue that WarnerMedia just doesn't want to spend money on shows like this – regardless of how well-received they are by fans, or how popular they could become if backed.
According to the sources, shows like 'Swamp Thing' and 'Doom Patrol' (another highly-rated show by DC fans) are not where WarnerMedia sees value. Instead, WarnerMedia intends to do more formulaic, The CW-like shows.
'Arrow' and 'The Flash' were both named as examples of the type of shows WarnerMedia would prefer to emulate going forward.
The underlying suggestion here is WarnerMedia is less keen on backing projects that it considers to be niche with the preference going towards shows that may appeal more to a wider user base.
Although these are just reported comments at the moment, they do tally well with similar observations made in the past regarding HBO.
Late last year comments by WarnerMedia's CEO, John Stankey, raised questions around the future of HBO content. In particular, whether AT&T would continue to back HBO's original content in the same HBO way or whether it would work more towards a 'quantity over quality' approach. That is, more content out the door to begin with, and also more content that appeals to more users.
The comments by Stankey indicated that from WarnerMedia's perspective, user engagement (hours watched) was the only thing that mattered as that engagement could be used in data terms to help monetize the user beyond a subscription. For example, through advertising.
The emphasis on data and monetization through additional measures are aspects AT&T/WarnerMedia has stuck with since those initial comments, and based on this latest report would appear to be a continual driving force behind content and directional decisions.
For example, the DC Universe is also likely to be subjected to the same value barometer due to WarnerMedia attempting to create an ecosystem that ensures as many people watch as many shows as possible – even if that means shutting the door on shows it feels do not have enough mass appeal.
Interestingly, the sources also said how WarnerMedia had been "spooked" by Disney's upcoming streaming service, Disney+. This is interesting as Disney seems to be precisely going with the approach WarnerMedia is now looking to avoid.
Disney has already confirmed its service is intentionally affordable to ensure as many people can access the content as possible. In contrast, WarnerMedia is looking at pricing its service at roughly $10 more than Disney's per subscriber, per month. WarnerMedia recently looked to justify the heightened price by pointing to the abundance of content that will be on offer.
Likewise, Disney is almost banking on the fandom surrounding its franchises to guarantee the service's success – it is making a play for the user's love of Disney characters and shows over everything else.
Again, in contrast, WarnerMedia seems happy to bypass the fandom surrounding the Warner Bros. properties it now owns in favor of relying on the idea that more vanilla content will attract more viewers overall.