The DC Universe’s Transition to Digital Media

In my opinion, without traditional media, there would have never been the creation of digital media that is so popular in 2020. With that being said, if the Original Seven members (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter) of the Justice League were never introduced together as a cohesive team in a comic book, we would have never seen the digital masterpiece of bringing the team together on the big screen. Sure, the 2017 Justice League movie was not the best film, but it was an impressive feat to gather a star-studded cast to portray the fan-favorite group of superheroes that could potentially rival the success of Marvel’s The Avengers.

The world of DC superheroes is an extremely vast one that spans over multiple different forms of media, but now these movies, television shows, and even comics are accessible through the use of digital media as opposed to traditional media. With the introduction of the streaming service known as “DC Universe”, the companies DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers Digital Networks have been able to consolidate most, if not all, under one metaphorical roof that requires fans and audiences to pay for access to DC content. For example, the Justice League is an essential part of the content that DC creates, whether it be the movies, television shows, comics, or even video games.

The picture on the right is the logo for the DC Universe streaming service.

When it comes to digital media, it removes the physical and animate aspect of the content, which allows the audience and consumer to carry that content with them no matter where they are and no matter what device they use to view the content. Phones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers and even smart televisions are all capable of eliminating the physical component of media and allows the content to become more of an on-demand service so the consumer can choose when and where they would like to be for it. Also depending on which companies hold the rights to show whatever content they like, it is possible for DC content to be scattered across many digital services, which enables more consumers to see different modes.

Digital media, especially the increase in streaming services over the last few years, has been the sole reason why cord cutting has become so prominent. With more cable channels turning away from cable services and moving into the digital media realm, it goes to show how large of a movement it is to adapt to the new media environment in 2020. With that being said, the Justice League movie has gone from movie theaters to physical copies, BluRay and DVD, and then hit different streaming services at a cheaper price than both seeing the movie in theaters and purchasing a physical copy. From a consumer’s perspective, using digital media is cheaper and avoids the hassle of going to a store or theater to buy or see the movie. For example, Amazon Prime allows consumers to rent the film for $3.99 and purchase it for $9.99, whereas for one movie theater company, Regal Cinema, it costs anywhere from $13 to $16.50 for adults to see a movie (Bridges, et al.).

Next, the digital version has the capabilities of doing certain things that traditional media cannot keep up with in today’s media age. As stated earlier, the biggest difference between digital media and traditional media is that digital media is accessible anywhere as long as the person has access to a smart device, which almost carries around with them on a day-to-day basis. With traditional media, it is very limited because it requires the physical aspect, not just possessing a smart device, the person would need to have the Blu-ray or DVD disc or the paperback comic book in order to consume the content. Also, another essential component of digital media is that it is much easier and cheaper to use. Instead of driving to a store or waiting for a product to be delivered, a consumer can download an app, pay an inexpensive monthly fee or one-time purchase fee, and immediately have access to their desired content.

In comparison to the traditional media version of the movie, the digital media version may actually detract from the narrative of the Justice League movie. The reason that it may detract from the overall story and narrative of the movie is because with the disc version there is a menu with a lot of other features, such as a deleted scenes option, that could contribute to the narrative but were not included within the movie itself. However, the narrative between that of a comic book and a movie is a fairly large difference because comic books are released in editions and it is virtually impossible to replicate all of those stories into one movie. Along with that last point, there are so many different Justice League comic book series, whether it is the New-52 or the Rebirth era that depends on when it was written, that scriptwriters can incorporate in order to make a film but ideas can be taken and put together in a cohesive fashion to make a film.

At the same time, the digital film may also detract from the narrative of the comic books and other content published about the Justice League. The producers and scriptwriters could potentially change the narrative of one character or of the entire movie if they want to branch out from the comics in order to tell their own story of the Justice League. For example, one of the largest differences of the narrative was casting Jason Momoa for the role of Aquaman since that character is normally portrayed as a caucasian male with blonde hair. Now, that was not a judgement of Momoa’s portrayal of Aquaman, but rather a large change in the eyes of the audience when the film was released.

The next two parts of my analysis of DC’s content being converted from traditional media sources into digital media are very closely intertwined with one another, while somehow also having a lot of differences. First, when it comes to any form of media, there will be at least one ethical dilemma that follows. With both traditional media, there will always be the conundrum of pirating DC’s content, whether it is films, TV shows, or comics. There are illegal websites everywhere that contain DC’s content without going through the proper channels to obtain it legally. Pirating does not only happen to DC’s content, but just about anything media related that could possibly be stolen or used illegally for another person’s gain. So does the digital version contribute to larger ethical dilemmas? Of course it does, but do you not think that governments could shut down all pirated sites permanently if they had the time and resources to do so? As a result of this, pirating will continue to happen on a global scale no matter if it is traditional or digital media.

This the homepage of DC’s streaming service that is subscription-based.

Second, is digital media accessible and fair to a wide user community? To put it simply, yes and no… In the year 2020, it seems as though household after household is cutting their cable cords and making the switch to one or multiple streaming services. This is actually true, as Toni Fitzgerald mentions in her article featured on Forbes, “And the average American subscriber watches 3.4 services. For each one, they pay an average $8.53 per month. That would total a monthly bill of $29. That’s less than a third of the average monthly cable bill of $107”. If consumers have currently pay for slightly more than three services per month, DC Universe could easily be one of the services people are paying for. Although it seems like a lot of people are switching over to streaming services, there are some who do not have the financial resources to afford either cable or even a single monthly subscription.

On the other hand, there are ways around the paywall of digital media services. Examples are account sharing a service with another, utilizing a service’s “free-trial period” (which DC Universe offers), and pirating as a last resort. I am not condoning pirating but for those who cannot afford a streaming service, it may be their only option to view and watch content that they are interested in. DC Universe’s monthly cost is $7.99, which is a fairly reasonable cost for all the content that they offer their audience, but people that are interested are welcome to click on the blue, “free trial” box in the top-right corner of the websites homepage.

Also, DC’s overall accessibility is partly due to the fact that its content is spread out among other streaming services as well. As much content as DC Universe has consolidated on one site, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers can sell the rights to separate companies in order to increase its profits and potential audiences. According to a Forbes article written by Rob Salkowitz, DC’s content distribution is ultimately up to its parent company, “AT&T—now the parent company of WarnerMedia and its divisions, including DC Comics (previously known as DC Entertainment), HBO, Turner, and Warner Bros.”. As a result, AT&T is able to sell certain content rights and licensing to other companies as a means of maximizing profits, whether it is the movies, TV shows, comics, action figures, video games, and even the new amusement park rides at Six Flags parks.

The picture to the left shows almost all of the sites that the 2017 Justice League film is digitally accessible.

Lastly, in this case, the digital media is sending a clear message to its viewers. The message is simply that digital media (as a whole) is accessible anywhere and anytime as long as the user has a device capable of streaming or accessing the content. Another message is the simplicity, effectiveness, and hassle-free process of viewing and watching the content that interests them without having to go to a store to buy a physical copy that will most likely cost more than the digital version. Digital media is a time-saver, as well as a life-saver. It has become the most dominant aspect in the media industry within the last few years that traditional media outlets are looking for ways to adapt and acclimate themselves within a new, digital media industry.

Next, these are clips and gifs from the film that accurately describe my feelings at the moment of completion.

Me avoiding the punch of procrastination and submitting my final project two days early.
My initial reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak.
An accurate representation of my group of friends and I strolling into summer is going to look like.

Further Reading/Viewing:

  1. https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/The_Brave_and_the_Bold_Vol_1_28
  2. https://collider.com/justice-league-new-poster/
  3. https://blacknerdproblems.com/mother-box-nerdity-need-know-dc-universe-digital-subscription-service/
  4. https://movietheaterprices.com/regal-ticket-prices/
  5. https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Justice-League-(2017)#tab=summary
  6. https://www.unbox.ph/play/justice-league-1-the-new-52/
  7. https://insidepulse.com/2016/07/06/dc-comics-rebirth-spoilers-review-dc-rebirths-justice-league-rebirth-1-has-a-superman-alongside-batman-crew-but-what-about-mysterious-new-justice-league-of-america-jla-too/
  8. https://screenrant.com/aquaman-jason-momoa-dceu-comics-comparison/
  9. https://www.dcuniverse.com/
  10. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tonifitzgerald/2019/03/29/how-many-streaming-video-services-does-the-average-person-subscribe-to/#25b2c4ea6301
  11. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalkowitz/2019/07/31/where-does-dc-fit-in-atts-vision-for-warnermedia/#7b70ffc679b7

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