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Feature Article

DC Universe Streaming Service Beta App Is Immersive

A solid start that's bound to have some content growing pains.

If you've been curious about DC's new streaming service, then you're in luck, as DC Universe launched a day early on September 14, and you can currently register for it here. When it was originally announced, fans of DC Comics and Entertainment were pretty surprised, but nonetheless, excited. The new subscription streaming app combines traditional TV and movies with comic books and even an encyclopedia. It's incredibly ambitious. And while the early experience we had with the beta version of the app was fun, it leaving us want a bit more.

Obviously, as with any beta app or service, DC Universe isn't entirely ready for market. There are bugs here and there, and this exact version won't hit the direct market. Additionally, there will be more content on the service when it launches on September 15, like when the original series Titans hits releases on October 12. DC Universe will cost $75 a year or $8 a month.

DC Universe's design is simple to navigate and visually appealing. The home screen offers up a features screen at the top with rotated recommended viewing, which usually pertains to something big. For instance, right now, the Teen Titans comic is featured, to go along with the upcoming release of the Titans TV series. Below that is your "Continue watching" section, and right below that is news. That home page does not feel overwhelming even though there are a variety of choices between the three pillars of DCU (movies, TV, and comics).

Movies & TV

Obviously, upon first glance, what DCU has to offer is very Batman-heavy. There's still a lot to choose from though that doesn't involve the Dark Knight. There are a few hidden gems like Fox's Human Target series and NBC's Constantine to binge. At first glance, it may not seem like it, when scrolling through the entirety of DCU's video catalogue, but there is a lot to watch, and most of it is undoubtedly good stuff. Although, a part of me still wants to watch Batman & Robin over and over again for those white hot Mr. Freeze puns. Obviously, the original DCU content is not live, but that should to be the overall driving force. The functions missing during playback for TV series, which is desperately needed, is a "play next" button for end credits of episodes and a "skip intro" button. As much as I love Young Justice, I do not want to see the intro over and over while I'm bingeing.

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While this service is still new and has a ton to grow, the lack of certain content begs the question, "Where are all the DC extended universe movies?" It's already been stated we wouldn't see any of the CW series on DCU, as there are issues with the rights currently--but you'll be able to purchase them through the app--so could that be the same reason we're not seeing these films as well? These should be tentpoles and a reason non-comic book readers and casual DC enthusiasts would sign up for the service. There are also other films the service is missing, including Watchmen, Red, V for Vendetta, and The Losers, as well as a few cinematic releases that critically fell flat like Steel, Green Lantern, and Jonah Hex. I'm the type of user that would love to see both the good and the bad on the service, as I'll watch it all, and I know there are others like me.

Comics, Community, & Encyclopedia

Inside the comic book section of DCU, the selection was pretty nice. There are a variety of selections from different eras, some of which tied into upcoming releases of movies and DCU originals. There's an autoplay feature that goes through the comic, panel-by-panel, that's really smooth, and it shows that this is a feature that would work exceptionally well when it's cast onto a television. It has the same familiarity as a service like Comixology but with its own flavor, which actually makes it a bit easier to use for those new to digital reading. While it won't get the credit it deserves, the comics section of DCU is one of the two standouts of the service.

Accompanying the comic section as something new for a streaming service is the encyclopedia section. It's concise and exceptionally well-written. You get to see detailed information about each character or team on an easy-to-navigate front page. Subheadings allow the users to peruse the info without feeling like it's an info-dump. Finally, there is a related content section that, in theory, will allow users to check out movies, TV series, and comics featuring these characters or teams. However, in the early beta, this section would not work and neither would the entire encyclopedia index. Regardless, this is a tremendous standout and perfect to keep users engaged in the app. And if there was a way to incorporate this into movies or TV shows, like Amazon's X-Ray mode, it would be a grand slam homerun.

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The biggest aspect to fall flat on its face for an older reader like myself is the community aspect of the DCU app. For the most part, it's another place for people to shout their opinions into the abyss. While there aren't many people using this section yet, as the beta has yet to launch as of this writing, it's got a few threads like "Favorite Episode of Young Justice," where users can discuss everything they love--and hate--about comics and properties based on DC characters. The only area that shows a bunch of potential is the "Creators Corner," which was empty. From the looks of it, this section will have writers, artists, and more from DC Comics discussing all things related to publishing, which is a pretty exciting addition to a section I never really plan on spending a lot of time in.

Casting

Obviously, like any streaming service, a part of the appeal is being able to watch content on a mobile device or on your TV at home. There are a few small bumps in the road with DCU to begin with, but it's nothing that should turn you off completely from subscribing. While using an iPad, DCU worked incredibly well with Apple TV. Both movies and television shows streamed seamlessly with no hiccups or problems.

There was, however, a button to connect to Chromecast as well--something we were told at San Diego Comic-Con that we would not see when the service launched. We tried casting DCU through two different Chromecasts, connected to two different TVs and had no luck. Chances are that casting is simply not ready for the service. Additionally, we could not use Apple TV or Chromecast to read comic books on our TVs. This was known going into the beta, but we still tried anyway, as it looked really cool during the demo we saw at Comic-Con. The service will also be launching with Roku and Amazon Firestick as well in case you want to watch DCU on your TV.

Additionally, there is a shopping section which was not up and running at that point, but it will be in time for the launch. We've been told you'll be able to purchase things like movies and TV series within that section, including episodes and seasons of the CW series.

As someone who has been on the ground level for plenty of new streaming services when they launched, like Netflix, WWE Network, Amazon Video, and Hulu, DC Universe follows in its predecessor's footsteps of trying to be its own voice without being a complete replica of them. There will be growing pains, and it will be some time before DCU truly gets its footing. However, the plan of a new original series episode, every week, for a year straight is incredibly promising for DCU's opening year. Yes, the lack of DC including some of its movies is a huge disappointment, but it seems like the company is taking a risk and trying something very different with its service. DC Universe, as a beta, isn't filled with too many bugs and actually works exceptionally well for something this large. The only real downside is the lack of certain content, specifically the DCEUDC extended cinematic universe movies. DC Universe will be a thrill to DC Comics readers and enthusiasts but doesn't have that mass appeal it needs yet. Hopefully, that will change with the release of series like Titans.

The GoodThe Bad
Functional layoutLack of DCU movies and CW TV shows was disappointing
Easy to navigate designSome sections were buggy
Streams perfectly with Apple TVThe community aspect was not appealing
Autoplay on comic books was coolChromecasting did not work
Encyclopedia section was very detailed
Solid "starter" content for TV and movies

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Mat Elfring

Editor of GameSpot Entertainment. Continues to Bolieve. Very snarky about wrestling on the Twitter.
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