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In the race for comic book market dominance, DC may be about to take a big step forward.
According to a report by Bleeding Cool, the Burbank-based publisher of books such as Wonder Woman, Justice League, Doom Patrol and The Flintstones is surveying select internet users on their level of interest in a digital subscription service.
The report, which cites an unnamed source, states that the survey included questions on prospective price points and exclusivity. It also indicated that features being explored go beyond comic books to include access to DC’s film and television library.
If true, the full-spectrum approach suggested in the report is a paradigm shift. It indicates a desire by DC to not simply play catch-up with the likes of the Marvel Unlimited service. The inclusion of video content spanning both the film and television arenas of the market in a single platform speaks to the broad, cross-media reach the industry has embraced. A growing number of fans consume DC’s library of IP primarily on screens as well as paper. Print may not be dying, but it is increasingly supplemented by digital.
The move is particularly interesting in light of ongoing negotiations with the FCC which would see Warner Brothers, DC’s parent company, fall under the corporate umbrella of telecommunications giant AT&T. The phone and Internet provider is looking to add media production to its portfolio following the 2015 acquisition of the DirecTV media distribution network. Warner Brothers stockholders approved the move in late 2016, but the sheer scale of the merger has seen movement stalled in the other D.C. The one in Washington.
President Donald Trump indicated during the election that he was not in favor of the AT&T/Warner Brothers merger, citing concerns over a shrinking amount of competition.
Should the move be approved, Warner Brothers and, by extension, DC Entertainment will become representative of a trend in media towards horizontal monopolization. AT&T would own the studio which creates a significant amount of the world’s news and entertainment media, as well as the lines which deliver it to customers. Joining this particular arena broadens the ongoing arms race between comic book publishers. Disney-owned Marvel has strong in-house distribution channels with the Disney network of cable and broadcast television stations, but it doesn’t also keep the coins acquired by the actual physical delivery of that content to users.
In the end, we still know nothing concrete about DC’s plans. We know that they’re gauging interest in a variety of channels and content types. We know that one of those channels is a digital subscription service. Whether that avenue is deeply explored or when that will be remains to be seen.