The DC Universe streaming service launched in September 2018 to much bemusement and head scratching. With so many streaming platforms available (and more coming), it seemed like a bizarre move to release a DC-centric service. It also didn't help that the debut trailer for Titans, the first original production from this new endeavor, failed to convince fans.
Yet, it proved to be only a bump in the road, as Titans' popularity grew over time and garnered 82 percent critical approval on Rotten Tomatoes. The next release, Young Justice: Outsiders, picked up where the show left off in 2013 and delivered a double whammy of critical and fan appraisal. Making it tic-tac-toe and three in a row, Doom Patrol already has everyone raving and looks set to be another massive hit for DC Universe.
On the other side of the pond, The CW's Arrowverse isn't looking too hot right now. The Flash's viewership has dipped to mostly under two million viewers per episode, while Arrow hovers in the lower end of one million now. To put it into context, the bonkers Riverdale regularly outperforms all of the Arrowverse shows on a weekly basis, proving that the Gargoyle King is more popular than the superheroes on the network.
Of course, it's natural that series lose viewership over time as the audience's attention span drifts to newer programming. In the case of Arrow, for example, it's now in its seventh season and delivered impressive numbers since 2012; an unprecedented feat for a live-action comic book TV show. The unfortunate reality is, these series aren't bringing anything new to the table anymore. It's the same old formula and regurgitated plots, beat for beat, year after year. If you watch one Arrowverse program, you've watched them all.
It also doesn't help that many fan-favorite characters are packing their bags for greener pastures. Last season, Arrow lost longtime cast members Paul Blackthorne (Quentin Lance) and Willa Holland (Thea Queen), while Echo Kellum (Curtis Holt) also recently departed the show. Additionally, The Flash is rumored to be losing Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon) at the end of the season, which will be a bitter blow to the series. While none of these actors were the faces of their respective shows, their absences will be felt and give viewers another reason to drop off.
Even if the showrunners decided to up the ante, though, they're still limited by The CW. Unfortunately, there are just some things they can and cannot do on network TV. And this is where the DC Universe holds the advantage over its competitors. Since it is its own network, it's accountable only to itself. Undoubtedly, it's liberating, as the creators will be allowed to take more risks and do things that wouldn't normally be allowed on network shows. Just look at the nature of some of the violence, language and nudity on Titans as a prime example.
The sandbox is bigger and filled with a lot more toys for the creative teams of DC Universe's original programming. They're able to make the shows they want to make. Now, this doesn't mean that everything will be hunky dory and perfect, as there will undoubtedly be a dud or two along the way. But it does put the control back in the hands of people who understand these characters better than the suits at some other network, and this is never a bad thing.
Despite all the positives, it isn't all rosy with DC Universe, as there are rumors that the subscription numbers aren't what were initially hoped for. It is a business and needs to bring in the moolah, so there will be pressure to start seeing the returns. Still, it's early days. Generally, a project such as a streaming platform will be given a few targets spanning several dates -- in fact, Netflix still struggles to turn a profit in most countries.
Considering it hasn't even been six months since its release yet, it's far too early to make a rash judgment on its future. The streaming service will grow incrementally, as every new show builds up a catalog of content and spreads its wings internationally.
All things considered, it's still too early to predict the death of the Arrowverse. The competition from DC Universe's shows might be the wake up call it has drastically needed, or eventually everything will move onto the streaming platform. Whichever way, it can only bode well for the quality of DC programming in the future.