It was announced on Sunday that Netflix and Warner Bros. TV had made a deal for the streaming giant to produce an 11-episode series of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. While the news was exciting for fans of the both the legendary comic book run on DC’s Vertigo imprint and of Netflix, there were some fans left scratching their heads at the move.
Warner Bros. has a dedicated online streaming service for DC Comics properties called DC Universe. The service features classic heroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, and their films and TV shows, both live action and animated, and even classic serials from the 1940s. It also features over 20,000 comic books, in-house produced news shows, and more.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the DC Universe service is in the original programming dedicated to DC characters. Titans premiered with the service last November, and that was followed by new episodes of the animated series Young Justice, a live-action Doom Patrol, and now, the critically acclaimed Swamp Thing.
So, why wasn’t The Sandman developed and featured on the DC Universe service? The answer is complicated, but it has more to do with money and less to do with the DC Universe failing, as some have reported.
It’s All About The Money
Netflix has declined to offer any hard numbers of what it paid Warner Bros. for the rights to The Sandman, but The Hollywood Reporter dug deeper and found that WB used the sale of the rights to help offset revenues for a deal they are working on with J.J. Abrams to bring the Star Wars director to the upcoming WarnerMedia streaming service.
The Sandman deal will provide a financial windfall to Warners, which is in final negotiations for a new film and TV pact with J.J. Abrams that could be worth north of $500 million. Sources note that the studio opted to sell it to a third party in a bid to bring additional revenue to the company rather than placing it at its forthcoming streaming service.”
Essentially, WBTV auctioned off one of its most popular IPs for cash to close another deal. Netflix has been known to throw money at projects it believes in, and as Marvel’s Jessica Jones wrapped up its third and final season on the service, the streaming giant needed a new partner to replace the Disney/Marvel deal that is now done.
Netflix scored big with The Umbrella Academy, which is based off a Dark Horse Comics property, so the streamer is content to show Disney/Marvel that it doesn’t need them. Landing The Sandman is yet another feather in the cap for CEO Reed Hastings, and both Netflix and WBTV come out on top here.
What About The DC Universe?
When Swamp Thing was hastily cancelled after airing one episode, many took it as a sign that the streaming service was in trouble. Some outlets even reported that the online home to all things DC Comics was done and the plug would be pulled later this year. Fortunately, none of that is true, according to sources, and the fact that Titans has a second season ready to go, Star Girl premieres next month, an animated Harley Quinn series is coming this fall, and Doom Patrol was given a second season shows that Warner Bros. is supporting the service.
There has also been a groundswell of support to save Swamp Thing, with a change.org campaign now in effect, which has almost reached its goal, as well as the social media hashtag #SaveSwampThing flooding timelines everywhere. It could be announced later this month at SDCC that DC Universe and Warner Bros. will correct course and give Swamp Thing another season. This is all hardly the actions of an application and service in the process of “shutting down.”
While The Sandman won’t grace DC Universe with his menagerie of characters and dreamworld hijinks, his rights sell-off could help WB underwrite the service, not only keeping it around, but helping to produce more quality shows — and even Save Swamp Thing! So, in a way, Sandman did affect DC Universe in a positive way.
The Sandman is guaranteed to be a hit on Netflix, as it has a devoted and near-rabid fanbase, and has for over 30 years. The DC Universe service is still in its infancy, but continues to grow and get more content weekly, in the form of new shows, episodes, and comics.
The announcement that The Sandman is going to Netflix is not the death knell that many are predicting for the in-house Warner Bros.-owned steaming service, but it is actually a positive. The Netflix Sandman deal and DC Universe can co-exist, and all signs are pointing to a long and successful future for both.
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. and Netflix.