It’s official. Even the titan that was Netflix’s Daredevil could not survive the streaming service’s current cancelation spree. We already lost Iron Fist and Luke Cage a few months ago so this was another painful loss. Things have quite grim for the Marvel Netflix shows ever since Disney began pushing forward with their own streaming service. Named Disney the streaming service will certainly revolutionize the market, as Disney has ownership of an almost endless catalog of iconic properties, which will eventually include content from the recent purchase, 20th Century Fox. Throw in their additional plans of creating high-budget shows for Star Wars and the MCU, you have a recipe that will rival pop culture’s biggest streaming giant. As Disney gears up to enter new territory, it leaves Marvel Television in a rather bizarre situation.
Canceled in its Prime
So far, the only two shows that have not been canceled yet are Jessica Jones and The Punisher. It’s unanimous that most fans believe these shows are awaiting its death sentence. If Netflix was willing to get rid of one of its most popular shows Daredevil , the chances of survival for these shows are slim. As of of December, Daredevil was reportedly Netflix’s fourth most popular show, which makes it even more bizarre that they would cancel it. There have been articles from various data analysts companies stating that the interest in these shows has been going down over time. Generally speaking, their analysis is difficult to quantify. On one hand, declining viewer ratings are present in almost every television show especially when season releases are stretched out and marketing is limited. Daredevil‘s marketing for its third season was rushed out in just a month from announcement to release. Fans will keep an eye out for the release of shows but the general audience is rather picky. Its Netflix’s job to sell them on continuing a show or draw in a new audience. The only thing is that their primary focus is not on viewership but on subscriptions, these viewership numbers being analyzed may have no meaning at all to the service.
So, why would they cancel these shows? They offered them a variety of interconnected shows that could draw in a variety of audiences. It was clear that they were getting expensive but when you have shows like Lost in Space, Stranger Things or A Series of Unfortunate Events , you can see a willingness from Netflix to spend some real money. In a statement on Twitter by former Head of Strategy of Amazon Studios Matthew Bell, he points out that this was a pure decision on the part of Netflix and they are moving towards only producing their own content without the help of third party-producers like marvel
2/ Netflix reportedly holds the right to keep renewing these shows, irrespective of Disney's preferences. Disney may be entering Netflix's territory with Disney+, but that didn’t drive the cancellations. Netflix was making a rationale decision based on quality, cost, viewership
— Matthew Ball (@ballmatthew) December 3, 2018
There are, however, a few statements that don’t really correlate with what is happening in my personal opinion. I do agree that the shows were expensive to produce. The shows I previously mentioned have high budgets but offer more return on investment for Netflix. The Disney shows are co-owned, so the profits would have to be split between both. Most viewer ratings drop over the course of their run-time with only a few handfuls actually being able to remain consistent.
The only aspect that stood out to me is the statement regarding quality and viewer decline. Yes, Iron Fist was critically panned but still got a positive viewer reception of 74% despite it, not to mention its second season being warmly embraced by fans. Moreover, Luke Cage was a well-regarded series in its run with a critical reception of 94% in its first season followed by 83% in its second. Viewer reception also was in a positive 75%, which points to a generally positive feedback from viewers. The point about The Defenders lacking any true buzz is, in my opinion, probably not due to its quality but rather its entire set-up. Most people are more willing to sit down and watch multiple films to prepare for a team-up film. Yet, trying to tell someone they need to watch five seasons each with 13 hours of content to be able to understand what is happening in a crossover is asking a lot.
In addition, if there is anything we can learn from the last few years, quality does not always mean that a show or film would not draw in viewers. The Big Bang Theory has been called out for dropping in quality throughout its seasons yet it still is CBS’ most popular show. This year alone, we saw the critically-panned Venom pull in a lot of viewers internationally. There seems to be a general shift in TV and film consumption as of late.
In the end, what may truly be the reason they got canceled is the fact that Disney is entering Netflix territory with Disney+. A streaming service filled to the brim with content that it will take a massive bite out of the current king’s subscription base. It no longer makes sense for Netflix to produce shows whose intellectual property is owned by a direct competitor. It will be hard to work together with a studio that is also working on other projects to support their own service. Moreover, Netflix is trying to be less dependent on third-party developers as they have the capacity to work on their own budgets and income from now on. It’s a competitive market and it will only get crazier from here on.
Ownership and Right Issues
Is there a possibility for the various Netflix franchises from Marvel to continue on other networks? Marvel shows like Runaways, Cloak and Dagger and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are completely under Disney’s ownership. The House of Mouse owns Freeform, ABC, and Hulu so these shows are quite safe from a rights’ perspective but the co-produced shows by Netflix are in a rather shaky boat. They are co-produced by ABC Studios and Marvel. As such, one would assume that they are owned by the studio. Yet, there are no official confirmations that these shows would also be included in the upcoming Disney+ streaming service or Hulu. Rather, the focus is that the shows will remain as a constant part of Netflix’s original productions. Moreover, most press releases, most notably the recent cancelation of Daredevil simply states that the “Man of Fear” will return. As such, it implies that this does not really solidify the return of any of the actors, production teams or showrunners. If there was some kind of programme shift, it seems rather tragic to not let the showrunners in on it. Daredevil Season 3 showrunner Erik Oleson left a rather somber message on not being able to continue into the fourth season, which he pitched to the studio.
Sometimes a gig is just a paycheck. When we’re lucky, it’s so much more.
There was something magical about working on #Daredevil Season 3.
We all felt it.
— Erik Oleson (@erikoleson) November 30, 2018
We have seen shows return from cancellation before, the most recent examples being Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Lucifer. So, there is a chance that Marvel may approach the showrunners at a later date if there is a possible chance for them to return. Still, if Netflix still has ownership of the shows there will be an uphill battle to actually continue these series on other platforms. Marvel still owns the rights to the main characters but Netflix co-owns these series with their respective titles. As such, it might be difficult for them to produce an actual continuation of Daredevil with the same logo or opening sequence.
Rights issues aren’t easy, as it depends on how the contracts were written up. A major aspect of the crossover The Defenders was that there was an exclusive deal between Netflix and New York City to use the iconic city as a primary shooting location. It became one of the major restrictions that also hurt Iron Fist, whose story is more global in comparison to the more regional heroes. While the films are a bit more flexible and only some parts of the films are actually shot on location, it was a major draw for these The Defenders shows. Disney CEO Bob Iger was involved with the project at the time, so this wasn’t something that Marvel did solely on its own.
Still, something about the way the shows have been publicized after being canceled has me scratching my head. The entire Marvel-Netflix project is nearing its end but Netflix will continue to keep the old seasons around. still, we have Iron Fist marketing with “Immortal” and Luke Cage stating “Forward Always” which hints at a plan for them to continue. The showrunners certainly weren’t informed as they gave a heartfelt goodbye, similar to the one from Oleson. Yet, then after Iron Fist got canceled they still confirmed that Danny Rand would return in a future Marvel project. The most obvious one would have been Luke Cage but after it got canceled it seemed rather unlikely, especially with no statement that Mike Colter would return as well. Daredevil gave us a similar ending with the wording that the Man without Fear would return. It still feels like their stories aren’t truly over yet and something else might be brewing in the back, but who knows how long this will take. If there is any potential for them to return we might not know until after the last Netflix show has aired, which is most likely the second season of The Punisher.
Defenders Can live on
I’ll start this off with the fact that these shows will most likely not end up on Disney+. The reasoning is rather simple, this is a streaming service that aims to be for everyone. They most likely will not show any shows or films that have a higher rating than PG-13. Most of the more darker and adult shows will probably live on through Hulu, which means that if the shows return this will most likely be their designated streaming service. Marvel Studios has pointed out that they may head towards more R-rated productions, as even Bob Iger pointed out that this is being considered moving forward. Disney+ only just recently finally got a name so maybe their strategy will still be developed and they could even combine the service with Hulu to offer a massive contender in the streaming service market. As of right now, it just seems rather unlikely.
The one thing I have stated previously is that from a right’s perspective they might not be able to continue the shows as they have previously. There is a chance that they would bring back at least the actors and cast from the originals in new renditions that continue the stories, such as retitling us with The Immortal Iron Fist that would continue its focus on Danny’s adventures with Ward. Then, the current holder of the title, Colleen Wing would join Misty Knight in a Daughters of the Dragon show that may tie into the ending of Luke Cage. There have been rumors that they are considering rebooting these franchises so it all depends on what direction Disney and Marvel are going with the MCU. It seems like Kevin Feige is venturing into new territory that may give him more influence on Marvel TV’s productions.
What do you think? Do you think the shows will continue? Why do you think they might have been canceled?