We have "Arrow" on the CW and "Agents of SHIELD" on ABC. We just saw "Gotham" on Fox and soon will have "The Flash" also on the CW and "Constantine" on NBC. There is talk of "Teen Titans" on TNT and now the just announced "Supergirl" going to CBS, lets not forget five Marvel themed shows on Netflix. Now one thing we do know is that unlike Marvel which is connecting all its efforts (movies and TV) to form one cohesive universe, DC/WB is not following suit and that has many people disappointed. Some even question the logic behind Warner's decision and outright claim they are unwise and making huge errors but, is that really the case?
Lets quickly run through how studios make money from television shows. Speaking in general terms lets say the average hour long superhero themed television show episode is produced with a budget of $3.5 million dollars per episode. A season of 22 episodes would cost about $77 mil. but often a series or season premiere or a season finale may have a separate and larger budget. Taking into account that some episodes are produced at smaller budgets (less special effects and explosions) and others may exceed the average (more effects and special guest stars) for the sake of clarity we will just use $3.5M as a guide.
When a series is "picked up" the network essentially buys the rights to the original broadcast and select rerun options from the studio. The network then sells advertising during the show to recoup its money and make a profit. The real money in TV though, is in syndication and if a show reaches a certain amount of episodes (generally 100 or about 5 seasons) the studio (which retains ownership of the production) can sell and resell the show to various markets forever. They also make and keep all the money off digital distribution and home video sales. The CW network is co-owned by CBS and Warners's so selling "Arrow", "Flash" and "Supergirl" was I'm sure at favorable rates.
Now even though other networks are scrambling to get superhero/comic book shows in their line up, there are only two real players in the game Marvel/Disney and DC/WB. The independent comics companies don't have the name recognition for their characters, sorry. Marvel though is owned by Disney who own..ABC.
With "Agents of SHIELD" and it's upcoming "Agent Carter" mini-series firmly intertwined with the all encompassing Marvel Cinematic Universe Disney is using corporate synergy to it's advantage by having it's TV division support it motion picture franchises. That seems like a great plan because so far it is working, but let's not forget AoS took a beating in the ratings mid way through it's freshman season and was buoyed by it's crossover with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" to boost the ratings during the May sweeps. Probably something Disney planned all along with the decision to release CA:TWS in April in order to get the buzz going again if needed on a show that debuted well. As we approach the premiere of the second season it will be interesting to see if that momentum from last season carries over. It should, and no doubt this season and the mini series will be very closely linked to what is probably the most anticipated film of 2015 (behind maybe only Star Wars: Episode 7) "Avengers:Age of Ultron" by continuing the story of the fall of SHIELD, the rise of HYDRA and how/if that plays into the creation of Ultron.
It is safe to say though, that AoS is safe through this season at least (so far no multi year commitment) with no real chance of being cancelled until this storyline is played out. Normally a show with such a large budget (the series premiere was budgeted at $14M) would have been cancelled during the slump last year.
Warner Brothers though has no in house network to cover the losses. The CW as stated above is a joint venture so Warners can sell their properties to other networks if the CW passes. Marvel/Disney/ABC is obviously less likely to sell shows to competing networks hence the Netflix deal. So Warner's is actually taking advantage of the situation by getting more of its product out while setting up future revenue streams for years to come. Fox pays WB, NBC pays WB, TNT (if "Titans" is picked up) will pay WB and the same for CBS with "Supergirl" BUT Warner Brothers retains all the future rights, sounds pretty smart to me.
About that Netflix deal Marvel has set up. The deal is for four 13 episode shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist) which will come together in a 4 or 8 episode mini series (The Defenders). The deal was for $200M which if we assume is split evenly between 60 episodes put the cost of each show at about $3.3M per. The benefit of this for Marvel is the money is guaranteed and Marvel can see the stories through without fear of cancellation and confusion to the loyal fans. If they took that package to a network (basic or premium cable) I doubt they would have got such assurances. The one thing about the Marvel plan that nobody really seems to think about is that one or two poorly received films or convoluted storylines and the whole house of cards (no pun intended) could come crashing down. Also even though Netflix has a large subscriber base now, growth has slowed and not everyone has its service. So even though the shared universe is a great draw, they have to write everything as if people haven't seen every movie and now every TV show just to follow along. That is alot harder than you might think.
So yeah, [Arrow](series:720988) and "Flash" are connected but if say "Flash" suffers in the ratings it can be cancelled and not affect "Arrow" and vice versa. If anything the surviving show would still be able to continue the adventures of the other character through guest appearances. The other DC shows by not being connected do not have the burden of continuity or the need for viewing of any of the other shows. TNT doesn't have to worry about when CBS is going to plot a particular "Supergirl" story because it may affect their "Titans" show. If say all the DC shows were connected and telling a broad over lapping story; how would that be affected by a national news event that preempted programming on the night of a crucial episode on one network? Would the other networks have to reschedule their broadcasts just to await the delayed episode? How would advertisers feel about that? What about DVR and time shifting (which is how a great many people view television) wouldn't that lead to confusion about what to watch first? Lastly, what about the people who do not have cable and can't watch the "Titans" part of the story or live in a city that doesn't have a CW affiliate? As you can see a shared universe among television shows is impossible from WB's perspective and to attempt to tie them into their films would be even more disastrous.
Warner Brothers is giving fans quite a bit of programming, much more than we have ever had if these shows get picked up. We could have five DC shows on air next year not counting "Constantine". I would say they have a firm grip on the plan at hand.