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Spend any time thinking about companies beholden to teen tastes and you'll get a short list of familiar names.
Certainly Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , for how well its iDevices have caught on with youth. There's also Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA ) , which draws a huge number of 24-and-under players to its games, most of whom say they've never been to college. Or perhaps you're thinking of Quiksilver (NYSE: ZQK ) , which makes popular teen outerwear. Or maybe even Nike (NYSE: NKE ) , which is getting renewed attention for a line of fully customizable shoes.
These are just a sampling of the teen tastes of the moment. Trouble is, they shift frequently and large media conglomerates must have the agility to quickly align with changing taste. Last night, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) took a shot with the debut of Arrow on its CW cable network. Here's a closer look:
I'm personally a big fan of the comic book character this show is based upon -- Green Arrow, an early member of the Justice League, a DC Comics super-team that Marvel would later use as its basis for The Avengers. This version of the battling bowman is darker than the version found in the comics. Heck, he's even darker than Batman, killing foes that apparently need dispensing.
Fortunately, violence isn't the only draw here. There's love, revenge, and a heavy dose of family drama to carry the story. As Paul Montgomery of the comics-themed blog iFanboy writes: "[Arrow] certainly benefits from that visual and thematic likeness to the wildly uneven, but charmingly goofy Smallville. It might be too soon to evaluate just how addictive the series might become, but there's enough promise in its inventive adaptation choices -- its structure as a Robin Hood meets Falcon Crest adventure soap, all those relationships -- [to] make it an easy recommendation for your next guilty pleasure."
Or, in my words: 90210 with superheroes, with enough angry-guy-out-for-justice testosterone of Christopher Nolan's very successful Batman films mixed in. This isn't the Green Arrow I grew up reading about. Maybe it doesn't matter.
What Warner and investors like me are after is another franchise to deliver in the way Smallville did. Tom Welling's depiction of Superman before he was super ran for 10 seasons. Justin Hartley appeared as Green Arrow in 72 episodes of that run. This time, Stephen Arnell dons the cowl.
As an investor, I hope he's up to it. We've seen teens make franchises before, and not just with Smallville. They made Zynga in its early days, before the adults came in and pooh-poohed the concept. Now the stock is stuck in transition. Could a move to reduce its dependence on Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) push the stock to new highs?