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Warner and ViacomCBS Could Sell Off The CW, Pushing DC TV's Future Further Towards Streaming

HBO Max has already been a key home to Warner's DC projects, big screen or small--but it might be about to become the only one

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The CW's Martian Manhunter, The Flash, Supergirl, Lex Luthor, Ryan Choi, and Batwoman, in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Just some DC characters, having a Crisis, as they’re wont to do.
Image: The CW

Later this year, it’ll have been a decade since Arrow hit The CW, establishing the first elements of a whole DC universe on the small screen that would change the face of superheroic TV as we know it. Now its transformation might reach an altogether different end, as the broadcast network that played home to Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and more goes up for sale.

The Wall Street Journal reported overnight that Warner Bros. and ViacomCBS—who have had a joint stake in the network since its establishment in 2006—are planning to sell off The CW. The report cites a historic lack of profitability for the network as part of the reason for the sale, an issue in the last few years that has been compounded further as both Warner and ViacomCBS renegotiated sales for international broadcast rights for CW shows—a primary source of revenue for the network—in order to bring those broadcasts in-house on platforms like HBO Max and Paramount+.


While The CW was established as a joint venture, the success of Greg Berlanti’s DC Comics universe on the network—starting with Arrow and spawning 7 different series across the “Arrowverse”, as well as two animated spinoffs for CW’s own streaming platform, CW Seed—meant the bulk of the network’s content primarily came from Warner Bros. But now that the studio has HBO Max, Warner is pushing that platform as the exclusive home for its TV streaming options, including for the current CW DC series like Flash, Batwoman, Superman & Lois, and Legends of Tomorrow, the upcoming Naomi, and simultaneous releases such as Stargirl.

This wouldn’t be the first time Warner has shunted DC projects from one platform over to Max, of course. After briefly simultaneously airing them through both services, Warner shunted much of the exclusive DC Universe streaming series such as Doom Patrol, Young Justice, Titans, and Harley Quinn over Max entirely once the service was established. Should the CW sale go through, it’s likely the same will happen for future seasons of the DC CW series, and currently planned future shows like Gotham Knights.


But it also presents an interesting future for these shows: Supergirl (which originally started out at CBS, before transitioning to the CW after one season) came to a close last year after six seasons, and The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow have been running for most of the last decade. Could a move to HBO Max as a dedicated home for DC TV bring about a natural end point for some of these series? Could it give some of them the shot in the arm to keep carrying on? It remains to be seen. But a decade on from where the live-action DC TV universe first started, its future is starting to look like something no one could’ve imagined the first time Oliver Queen donned his green hood to protect Starling City.