When the first DC FanDome was announced it was to be a sprawling virtual event over 24 hours with more content than one person could consume in that time. Ultimately it was pared down and split up over multiple days. Nonetheless, it was a huge success in terms of both viewership and virtual event production. With DC FanDome 2021 behind us now, was it also a success? Well, in terms of viewership it was. Last year’s 8-hour program was viewed by around 22 million people. This year, according to DC, the viewership tripled for the truncated 2021 version to 66 million. The show ran in over 220 countries with 12 languages, and it created as much online buzz as the first one did. By almost any metric the 2021 DC FanDome presentation was a virtual success.
Yet, with the world slowly getting back to in-person events, what is the future of something like DC FanDome? Was this the beginning of the end for these egalitarian marketing events for massive studios? Mostly, these companies turn to comic conventions, specifically the San Diego Comic Con. Yet, the Comic-Con-At-Home presentation left a lot to be desired. Disney already had their own event, D23. And the past two years have proven that WarnerMedia can support such an event as well, even if it is only focused on one small part of the overall media empire.
So, let’s take a moment to look at what DC FanDome did right and where it could improve. Also, let’s imagine what these events may look like in a less locked-down future.
Why I Think DC FanDome 2021 Was a Near Total Success
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Personally, I enjoyed the presentation this year, though I felt like it was too rushed. As I said, last year they had 8 hours to fill (plus equally as much content reserved for a second day). I especially thought the sections focused on Black Adam or Aquaman 2 were very rushed. They could have put together a short Zoom/Skype panel discussion and give the pre-taped packages time to breathe in the hearts of fans. There is an argument to be made that the fast pace “keeps the energy up,” but I think it ultimately made the shorter presentation feel longer than it was. Hell, even baked-in bathroom breaks showing fan art, cosplay, and replaying trailers and pre-taped packages would have helped.
The event was hosted by Tiffany Smith, an actor who’s popped up in Masters of the Universe, Critical Role, and other niche geek areas. Also, Candice Patton of The Flash gave “newsflashes,” a nod to her reporter character Iris West. There were also nice extended segments, such as the cast discussion about the final season of Supergirl. I also really enjoyed the extended segment discussing the future of Milestone Comics, including a new feature film. We got first looks at Ava DuVernay’s Naomi and the new Blue Beetle film. There’s so much more than the Flash movie and The Batman for DC fans to be excited about.
Image via screengrab
Also missing from this year’s presentation was a heavy fan component. The inclusion of fan nonsense, from cosplay photos to awkward videos, helps make the event feel less like a corporate presentation. From purely a fan perspective, I saw a lot to be excited about. As someone who looks at this crummy business for what it is, DC FanDome feels like the future of fan events.
As Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks said in a statement:
“With triple the fan traffic of last year, DC FanDome 2021 exceeded all of our expectations. We continue to innovate across the company in service of our fans, and I cannot overstate the creativity and hard work that went into this highly curated, global digital event. We gave fans what they wanted – the very best of all things DC – and their engagement and response have been fantastic. We’re as excited as they are to deliver on all the great content DC FanDome highlighted.”
When we wrote about the history of San Diego Comic-Con two years ago, we marveled at how this nerdy gathering became the biggest stage in entertainment promotion. Yet, even before COVID, its domination was threatened. The consolidation of the rights to the most beloved franchises in the hands of just a few studios, they can do their own thing. From Star Wars Celebration to DC FanDome, more focused and specific events seem like the best hype engines. Now that there can be an on-site and virtual presentation? These events can breakthrough from niche audiences to global pop culture events. And unlike SDCC or NYCC, they don’t expect these events to make a profit. (Though, they easily could.)
Frankly, the continued success in 2021 for DC FanDome suggests to me that building towards a big in-person event is the likely trajectory. Especially if WarnerMedia finally ends up with a parent company interested in growth and creativity.
You can see DC FanDome 2021 segments on WarnerMedia’s various YouTube channels.
What did you think of DC FanDome 2021, success or failure? Share your reactions, key moments, and thoughts about the future of the event in the comments below.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he’s loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book “What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More” is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.