DC’s unquestionably troubled existence under the new AT&T regime at Warner Media is, at best, in doubt. The new parent company’s treatment of the brand over the past year has been surprising and erratic, hinting it might be preparing to dump the publisher altogether.
Former DC Comics artist Ethan Van Sciver thinks that will happen. On one of his latest live streams, Van Sciver speculated DC will be sold off as part of a billion-dollar cost-cutting move initiated by one of AT&T’s investors. He specifically states, “I kind of feel like AT&T is going to consider divesting DC Comics. That’s what I think is going to happen. I think there is going to be a lot of pressure to do so. That’s a lot of debt.”
A Barrons article — “AT&T Was Headed in the Right Direction Before Activist Elliott Management Showed Up” — cited by Van Sciver reveals the Hedge fund Elliott Management has a $3.2 billion stake in the company.
What’s more, Elliot is not happy. AT&T stock is underperforming compared to its competitors — T-Mobile and Verizon — and the S&P Index average.
This could lead to the removal of positions and outsourcing as a way of bringing profits up and saving money. Van Sciver pointed out there are signs that effort is beginning and has massive ramifications for DC.
“Elliott’s letter also calls on AT&T to streamline its ‘bureaucratic organization,’ remove redundant positions, and consider outsourcing noncore functions. Along with office centralization and other cost cutting, Elliott sees $10 billion in potential annual savings that could expand AT&T’s profit margins.”
Furthermore, staff has “quietly” been cut since 2018.
“Wells Fargo’s Fritzsche noted that AT&T has quietly reduced its employee count by 5.6%—or over 15,000 people—in the past year.”
A meeting, or “analyst day,” will be held on October 29th regarding the future of Warner Media and the new streaming service that’s been in the works all this time, HBO Max. That meeting takes on added weight if AT&T no longer considers DC worth the investment.
“AT&T has an analyst day scheduled for Oct. 29 focused on WarnerMedia and its upcoming HBO Max streaming service. That meeting just got more interesting, wrote Fritzsche.”
Warner Media’s enthusiasm for DC is noticeably lacking. For months, the long-running publishing house’s future status has had one big question mark looming over it. Stunningly, CEO John Stankey, an AT&T insider, didn’t mention it when promoting Warner Media in a Forbes article. (Related: Report: DC Comics Might Not Have a Future as Part of WarnerMedia Under AT&T)
Viewed as one of many “lifestyle brands,” DC had a scant presence at San Diego Comic-Con this year and no presence, strangely, at Hall H. Posters and promotional material for Wonder Woman 1984 and Birds of Prey debuted a month later at a random licensing expo. (Related: New Posters for Wonder Woman 1984 and Birds of Prey Show Off Gal Gadot and Margot Robbie)
Strife and rumors related to the future and viability of DC Universe caused representatives to be vague and dismissive. There is still no answer why Swamp Thing was canceled. Sources tell Cosmic Book News it was another cost-cutting move by AT&T because the show’s budget was exorbitant and nobody was keeping an eye on the finances. (Related: DC Universe Issues a Statement on Swamp Thing’s Cancellation and Executive Producer James Wan Reacts)
Rob Liefeld, of all people, sees DC is in crisis. He talks about it nonstop on his social media, saying the people in charge are incompetent and the company’s current comic book continuity needs to be vaporized and restarted. (Related: Deadpool Creator Rob Liefeld on DC Comics: “Just Vaporize It and Begin Again”)
DC’s sales are suffering and have been for a while. They cut back their line so much that June saw the lowest number of DC releases ever. Marvel is beating them hands down at the newsstand. And sales of its flagship Batman book are at a year low. In fact, DC Comics Publisher Dan DiDio admitted Fascimilie Editions of older reprint issues are selling better than their new comics.
“We do these Facsimile Editions where we reprint older issues of comics including all the old ads and stuff…and in some cases these are selling more than the new comics with these characters. People are more interested in buying the stories from 30 or 40 years ago than the contemporary stories, and that’s a failure on us.”
History Repeats Itself
Turmoil at Warner is nothing new. In the days of the triple merger with Time and AOL, twenty years ago divisions and companies under their banner that hemorrhaged money were scuttled. Some of them had been around for years and were the hottest things in their industry at one time — WCW is the best example.
What do you think about Van Sciver’s speculation? Do you think AT&T will dump DC Comics?