After writing Wednesday’s essay on the “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”, I realized Warner Bros. Discovery’s cancellation of the direct-to-streaming movie “Batgirl” reveals an additional, important perspective.
The WarnerMedia executives who approved the "Batgirl" production sought to monetize a popular DC character with younger generations and new demographics, as The Hollywood Reporter’s Richard Newby wrote: "An Afro-Latina-led Batgirl movie, directed by filmmakers of Moroccan descent, and starring a transgender Asian woman (Ivory Aquino), would have generated some positive buzz for the studio that wants to assure its audience that it’s committed to diversity."
Buzz is awareness, which is the top of any conversion funnel. But the direct-to-consumer (DTC) model is about aggregating and executing against valuable first-party data, which falls further down the conversion funnel.
Amazon is betting $1B on “The Rings of Power” to capture valuable "Lord of the Rings" and J.R.R. Tolkien fans, and WarnerMedia was betting 0.6% of that on “Batgirl”. However, the consumer data Amazon will gather is exponentially more valuable to the marketplace than the data Warner Bros. Discovery could have gathered had it released “Batgirl”.
That difference fleshes out a complicated dynamic now playing out in streaming, and also driven by the shift towards gaming and ad-supported models: what was the long-term value of the consumer data generated by the consumption of “Batgirl”?
“Batgirl” is interesting because it plugs elegantly into something former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar explained to Puck’s Matt Belloni in broad brushstrokes about the data they valued from a streaming subscriber: