CW

The Audience Payout: Growing and nurturing an enthusiastic fan base loses out to over-monetizing network television

Sometimes networks can be shortsighted in considering their audiences when they’re trying to look at the bigger picture. Business decisions are currently being made that don’t take into account the fan bases that drive the success of their shows – at least not from the fan perspective. Media companies are in the business of making money, and with the popularity of streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime continuing to rise while original content on those sites are gaining traction, this might nudge a network into considering its own streaming as a for-pay service while pulling their shows from the popular sites to cash in on the market. The problem is, it’s not a question of when – it’s already happening.

BBC has already pulled shows from Netflix, and the CW is looking to follow suit. Normally the comings and goings of shows available on Netflix streaming don’t cause a fuss, but these two networks provide some pretty popular shows. Doctor Who has been removed from Netflix, which I’m afraid to tell my kids since they recently talked about going back and watching some of the tenth doctor’s episodes. A heavily present network on Netflix, the CW has shows with large fanbases: The Vampire Diaries, iZombie, The 100, The Originals, The Flash, Arrow, and Supernatural.

If you look at the fans that are most active on social media, promoting the shows they love through these outlets and in other ways such as buying merchandise, the fans of the CW especially are known for urging family and friends to watch the shows either as their weekly ritual or as guilty pleasures. These fans attend conventions frequently, an experience which I wrote about earlier this year. The shows are important to them, and across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr, the shows are discussed in detail and even academically.

With Netflix, getting new people to watch these shows was easy, especially ones like Doctor Who and Supernatural that have been on for over a decade. Having heard a little about them or being pressured by a friend to give a show a try, someone could click Season 1, Episode 1 and be on their way. An entire audience that returns to the shows again and again to rewatch either alone or with friends they’re bringing in as new viewers should be enough to realize how important presence on a popular streaming site is; add to that the potential for growing an audience that wasn’t old enough to get into the show when it first aired, but has since taken an interest in it, and it makes sense to keep this platform available. Being able to stream from the beginning to catch up to the new shows is how many have moved to watching the shows live, helping ratings of shows that may have fallen by the wayside years ago.

Again taking the fans into consideration, the active audience demographics for these shows are on the younger side, and if they or their parents are already paying for cable, internet, and Netflix, does the network think that they will pay long term for an additional streaming service? I’ve left behind shows that I had to pay by the episode for or gone to torrent if I really wanted to watch them. Promising people that something won’t be available for Netflix streaming may boost sales of DVDs temporarily, but DVDs are no longer the viewing platform of choice. NBC, ABC, and CBS following suit would completely complicate the viewing experience with too many subscription services and drastically reduce the amount of households that purchase cable subscriptions, something they already know as CBS is inviting you to try an All Access on demand pass – your first week is free. Asking viewers to buy access to shows through a new site when they’ve been paying to access television and movies for years through a cable company or a site they’re comfortable with is taking a gamble on a sector of the audience that will question just how much they want to watch these shows – you can only act like a crack dealer with television for so long before the audience moves on or finds other ways to access the shows. Plus, there are always other shows available to get hooked on and that can provide meta writers fodder – you’re not the only drug on the street.

Attention spans for media can be short and viewers can be fickle, and if the accessibility to shows become too costly or complicated, the audience will walk – maybe not everyone, but enough to make a network like the CW take pause. Obviously a way to make money for the network instead of connect to the fans that support their shows, this venture is sure to alienate the audience more than connect with them. The number of shows I’m interested in watching has lessened the more restricted the access to them gets. If it’s a pain in the ass to watch, I’ll just write, draw, or read a book and watch something on my DVR. I was a more enthusiastic fan because the shows were available on a streaming platform that I was already using, and with Doctor Who gone and the threat of the CW leaving, I can already feel my interest in watching the shows waning. Who wants to try to get into Arrow if they don’t have time to catch up before past episodes of the show vanish? In the meantime, I’ll be over here waiting for the next seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

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DC’s Dawn of the Justice League: Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad

On the CW earlier this week, the network presented a special hosted by Kevin Smith and Geoff Johns. DC Comics: Dawn of the Justice League gave us sneak peeks at the 2017 movie Wonder Woman featuring Gal Gadot and the first trailer for Suicide Squad that we’ve seen since the sneak peek at SDCC 2015.

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Johns and Smith discussing Wonder Woman on the CW’s DC Comics: Dawn of the Justice League

The Wonder Woman exclusive showed the heroine moving through the ages and basically being a badass. Gal Gadot brings Wonder Woman to life fantastically, and I can’t wait to see the full length feature. Gratefully, Smith and Johns seem excited as I am about Diana Prince coming to the big screen, and described her as a “feminist icon”.  I can’t argue.

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I may be a bit biased when it comes to Wonder Woman.

What Marvel missed in the film department, DC picked up on – women and young girls are so there for leading ladies, and I think we’ll be seeing a shift in representation. Recently in regards to Star Wars, it was pointed out that Disney didn’t push Rey merchandise – or have any. They said they didn’t want to give away spoilers, but many fans were left asking, “Bitch, where?” GQ (the magazine using sexy women asking for your email to get you to sign up for their mailing list) pointed out that looking at The Avengers merchandise from 2012, Black Widow was inexplicably absent from shelves with no spoilers linked to the character. The excuse is weak. My youngest son, who was five years old when Avengers came out, asked the same thing, and again with better diction and genuine concern when Age of Ultron was released. Kids pay attention. Hopefully we’ll get a metric ton of Wonder Woman gear for both men and women – and don’t be going pink on me, DC.

The Suicide Squad trailer seduced us with a little “Bohemian Rhapsody” and had a great look, but I’m hesitant to throw all my excitement into this because of the over-hype regarding Jared Leto’s Joker. Personally, as I’m sure everyone does, I have characters I fall in love with written in one way and when seeing them written/portrayed in another way I squint until I’m sure I can let go and enjoy the incarnation I’m seeing. Part of me is worried that Leto’s portrayal will be a brightly colored Kylo Ren – a character believing they’re a badass and completely intimidating, but in actuality is a whiny brat that everyone just wants to avoid any interaction with, and not just because they might be killed. But, I trust David Ayer and John Ostrander to bring a good story, and that’s where the root of the film lies. Besides my character bias, I’m generally a watch and see kind of person – I’ll wade through the negative reviews and give something a chance to see for myself if the criticisms have merit and then make my opinion. So far from what I’ve seen of Suicide Squad, I’m here for Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) and Will Smith (Deadshot) stood out in the initial SDCC first look and the trailer shown during the CW special, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller seems to mirror her outstanding performance as Analise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder. Those three actors alone have me interested in seeing what this movie brings – Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg, and Adam Beach as Slipknot gives me something else to look forward to and I can’t help but do some cheering for a diverse cast. 

I hope that we’ll see more specials like this in the future, and not just from DC. The Marvel look into Captain America was wonderful from a historical perspective and the impact comic book characters and representation have on audiences, and my boys loved watching the Justice League special. Kevin Smith’s never ending enthusiasm for comic books makes him an ideal host for these kinds of shows. More content like this, please.


 

On an adorable note: Kevin Smith cooed over Harley Quinn’s bat at the end of DC Comic’s Justice League special, and later brought the bat home to his daughter – Harley Quinn Smith.

She cried on Instagram, asserting her desire to one day play the role of her namesake saying, “I’m not joking when I say I cried for an hour.”

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Harley Quinn Smith with the Good Night bat Margot Robbie used in her role as Harley Quinn for 2016’s Suicide Squad.

[full story at comicbook.com] If that’s not the cutest damn thing you’ve seen today, at least it’s a great example of how these characters, whether they be heroes or villains, and the opportunity to play them mean so much.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here patiently waiting for 2017 and the Wonder Woman movie, and not thinking about how tiny Harley Quinn Smith was when she played Mini-Silent Bob in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and how I watched that movie in theaters with my friends the beginning of my senior year of high school. I hope all your dreams come true, kiddo. Just stop making me feel old.