Netflix recently announced that Friends was being removed from their streaming service, starting on January 1, 2019. There was a public outcry and that decision was promptly reversed and the 90’s sitcom will now stay on Netflix throughout 2019, thus once again confirming Hollywood’s sneaking suspicion that all they really need to do to make money is pull something off the shelf from twenty years ago, put it in a shiny new package, and sell it to us again. Yet as Marvel and their Defenders learned, there is perhaps only one force in the entertainment industry that can stop even this impulse, and its spelled M-I-C-K-E-Y… Why, because money.
Disney+ Alias No More Marvel
It was also announced last week that Daredevil was to be canceled by Netflix, despite being ranked as the 4th Highest In Demand Series on the streaming service. With Matt Murdock going to the trash heap along with Iron Fist and Luke Cage, the rest of the Marvel lineup is sure to be next. Jessica Jones and the Punisher both have seasons that are currently being filmed or are in post-production, and it is unlikely that the streaming giant will cancel those properties with seasons so near completion, but do not hold your breath for a Jessica Jones season 4 or a Punisher season 3. The writing on the wall has become clear, Netflix is stopping production on all new Marvel content.
Now that is not to say that these five super-powered friends will be leaving your subscription in 2019. No, Netflix still owns the streaming rights, so all 13 season -8,500+ minutes of gritty-street-level-superhero goodness- will still remain on the platform. There just won’t be any new content added. So, the real question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is why? Why would Netflix and Disney choose to end their lucrative deal together? Why would Netflix who owns the shows, but not the heroes themselves, choose to stop making more wonderful Marvel content? The short answer is Disney+… which is a terrible name.
Disney+ will be Disney’s new exclusive online streaming platform, because the House of Mouse will not be content till they dominant all forms of media, entertainment, culture, and several small developing countries. It will debut sometime in late 2019 -which is coincidentally right after the last Marvel season will air on Netflix- and it is going to be a juggernaut. This is not going to be like CBS All Access or some other crappy streaming service created by some low-rate network that got it in their head that people wanted to pay an additional 75 dollars a year so they could have unlimited access to The Big Bang Theory and whatever NCIS they think up next, NCIS: Topeka? No, Disney is pulling all Marvel, Star Wars, Muppet, Pixar, and other properties that they own off the streaming platforms of their new competitors. You do not realize how much content and intellectual property that Disney owns until you start to see all of them disappearing from the streaming services that you are already paying a few hundred-dollars-a-year to watch… or are just using your upstairs neighbor’s password for… Thanks Charlie.
“But wait,” we hear you saying, “didn’t you just say that Netflix owns the Marvel shows, even if it does not own the characters?”
You are paraphrasing, but yes.
Heroes for Hire: Out of Business
Netflix does own the rights to the Defender properties, which means that they can choose to keep making more seasons if they desire, but they are desiring not to do so. Some people, are pointing to the reduced viewership of the Marvel properties on the streaming service as reasons to why they were cancelled, but that cannot be confirmed. Netflix is notoriously stingy with releasing its viewership data, but we all know the seasons that most people are talking about. With that said it is no surprise that Iron Fist was the first to be canceled, even though it had a decent second season. Similarly, Daredevil struggled in its second season, but just produced a critically acclaimed -and very enjoyable- third season. Now, the lowering viewership may have been a factor, but it probably wasn’t the main contributing factor.
After all, the rating could not have been that bad. These shows were more solid than terrible, and superhero properties are still selling out movie theaters and taking over the small screen to an almost chokingly massive degree. Marvel is a brand that sells and Netflix could have ridden the train for at least a few more years, but what would be the benefit to Netflix? We do know a few things about the viewers of Marvel/Defender properties, of which we count ourselves among. First of all, those people that watch shows like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are more likely to watch other Netflix original shows. Secondly, the Marvel shows were no longer bringing in new subscribers to Netflix. Now, that may not have been true when the first season of Daredevil aired in 2015, but the shows seem to be making no noticeable impact on subscribers or revenue. That means that they are not offering any positive financial benefit, and because the vast majority of the show’s watchers are already engaging with other Netflix shows regularly, it also means that cancelling them will have no negative financial impact.
In short people are not going to stop watching Netflix because there is no Iron Fist season 3. Lastly, as Disney goes ahead with its plan for global domination Netflix is going to lose all its Marvel and Star Wars movies, and Disney+ will be launching a plethora of Marvel and Disney live-action and animated shows. The Netflix Defenders are heavily Marvel branded and tied-in to the MCU, which means that continuing their production is only going to serve to give Disney -their now competitor- more free advertising and remind viewers that they could just cancel Netflix and subscribe to Disney. In a way, it is an incredibly smart financial move on the part of Netflix. They risk nothing, but by doing it they cut off a source of free advertising for their newest and biggest competitor… but there is a catch.
The Punishing Reality
All the speculation that people have had over seeing a Heroes for Hire or any new Defender properties made on Disney+ is a fantasy. The Netflix shows are too gritty to fit into Disney’s sterilized kid-friendly world. Marvel has been less and less enthusiastic about the links between the gritty shows and the colorful witty movies, even going so far as to say “no”to any cameos from Daredevil and friends in Infinity War. So leaving the Defenders and their sex-scenes and bloody-violence to wither and die in the back queue of Netflix also serves the purpose of Marvel and their overlords in the Empire of Mouse. basically, it will benefit both companies to try and forget that these shows ever happened, so if we do see them again it will probably only be in cartoon form, where they can be contained and utilized in a more child-friendly way.
However, do not give up hope of ever seeing superheroes on Netflix again. Netflix has entered into an agreement with Mark Millar to start making properties of his Millarverse with adaptions of Jupiter’s Legacy, American Jesus, Empress, Huck, and Sharkey the Bounty Hunter possibly on the table for a new connected universe. So, the dominance of superheroes in our media remains strong, even if the Defenders will fall by its wayside.