2 Things the New ‘Gotham’ Trailer Tells Us About Time Warner’s Business Plan

The familiar tone and widening universe revealed in the new “Gotham” trailer suggests a shared, cross-channel DC Cinematic Universe could be on the way.

May 7, 2014 at 1:26PM

An extended version of the Gotham trailer hit YouTube earlier this week.

Concurrent with the news that it had entered a series order, Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) this week released the first Gotham trailer on YouTube.

Nearly 1.6 million had tuned in as of this writing. Of those, roughly 97% like what they see. I do, too. Shades of the Gotham we've seen in Christopher Nolan's trilogy can be found in the trailer, which comes off less as a comic book story than a hard-boiled tale of true crime. The sorts of crime that can only be addressed with the help of a superhero. In this case, the Batman.

We won't see the Caped Crusader till the end of the series. In the meantime, DC Entertainment and Fox intend the show to focus on Ben McKenzie as a young Detective James Gordon before widening the lens to include early versions of classic Batman villains Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy, among others.

What else can we derive from the new Gotham trailer, and what's it all mean for investors? Two things stand out:

1. The tone will feel familiar, and should fit nicely with what DC Entertainment has planned. Just as Batman Begins created a dark, gritty backdrop for the rise of the Batman, Gotham appears to be aiming for a dark, gritty Gotham City to anchor a world that needs superheroes. And why not? Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. television are producing the show, just as they are Arrow and The Flash. Fox may be airing Gotham but Warner is pulling the creative strings. Organizing a recognizable, shared universe is in its interests -- and could plant the seeds for an eventual crossover between TV and movie properties.

2. Executives may already be thinking about spinoffs. While the Batman universe is rich with characters, we've yet to see many of them on the big screen. Aside from Scarecrow, The Joker, Bane, Gordon, and Alfred, what other big names have appeared in the movies? If the trailer is to be believed, Gotham can bring fans and investors more of the rich elements of the Batman universe while complementing (or even informing) Zack Snyder's forthcoming DC Comics epics.

Fox Gotham

In the Gotham trailer, the city sports the same sort of gritty feel that fans of the movies should be used to. Credit: Twenty-First Century Fox.

Right now, no crossovers are planned. "Warner Bros. manages the entire franchise and it's one of their top global franchises of all," IGN quotes Fox Chairman of Entertainment Kevin Reilly as saying in January." So there will be an awareness of both and we'll have to coordinate when we're in the marketplace, but the productions are not piggy-backing off one another."

Fair enough, but that also makes sense when you consider the timing of projects in development. Batman vs. Superman is to feature Ben Affleck as a grizzled, experienced Batman and may be set in the not-too-distant future. Gotham is a prequel, and Arrow and The Flash are (presumably) set in the present day. Eliminate that barrier and fans and investors have every reason to believe Fox and The CW will someday be involved in a shared DC Cinematic Universe.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. What did you see in the Gotham trailer? What do you expect from the show? Let us know your take in the comments section below, including whether you would buy, sell, or short Time Warner stock at current prices.

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Batman and the DC Comics characters may be a big part of Sony's strategy, but this is also the same studio that's teamed with Legendary Pictures to bring Godzilla to life this summer and Game of Thrones on HBO. A studio that's as close to all-in on niche programming and digital distribution as you can get. But as the industry shifts, our analysts see three other companies claiming the lion's share of the $2.2 trillion that's at stake. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple. 



Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Time Warner at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

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