This morning you may have woke up to a couple stories about New Warriors and Netflix and Marvel and the future of TV shows for the network. Some fans can find these kinds of stories a bit bewildering and complicated, so I’m going to do my best to break it down. I am not a Hollywood insider by any means, but in this case, we’re confident we can explain this pretty well for those of you scratching your heads. As I’ve done before, I’m going to break it down in a Q&A format.
Q: So what happened?
A: The Hollywood Reporter released a news story revealing that Marvel had taken New Warriors away from Freeform and is now shopping it around, presumably to a streaming service.
Q: That sound really bad for New Warriors, right?
A: That part is really weird. With headlines using phrases like “won’t air” and “pulled,” it is easy to hear negative connotations. The exact opposite is the case, however. Marvel took the show off of Freeform because it was doing amazingly well with test audiences. This caused Loeb and co. to want the show to get out soon. Freeform, apparently, didn’t have space in their schedule for it. (It seems ludicrous that a network like Freeform can’t make space for something Marvel thinks is pure hit, but that’s a conversation for another day.) Note that Freeform did sign off on the move, despite the fact they already greenlit the first season. So all around this news shows a little instability around the project, but only because the pilot is being well received.
Q: So why is everyone talking about Netflix shows ending?
A: The article from THR went further to discuss where the show might go. Amongst the options is a new Disney video service, similar to Netflix or Hulu. (I’m calling it Mouseflix in the vain hope they go with that name and give me a small check for being so clever.) This service was part of the previous Netflix Disney talk that went on this summer. We already know such a service will house Marvel films, most likely, as Marvel is part of the Netflix first package Disney is discontinuing. There is an outside chance that New Warriors might be part of the launch of such a service. THR lists this as unlikely, because of the time frames. Freeform is losing the show, reportedly, because Disney and Marvel don’t want to wait for 2019 to air it. 2019, however, is exactly when Mouseflix is supposed to go live.
Q: Are we getting to the Netflix part anytime soon?
A: Hey, patience is a virtue! So in the midst of all that talk about Mouseflix and it’s opening as a service, the THR article throws in another major curveball. “Sources suggest Disney-owned Marvel — which has a multiple-show deal at Netflix that includes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, The Defenders and the upcoming Punisher — is no longer able to sell to outside companies. If true, that would seemingly limit the potential new homes for New Warriors.” This is major news! Up until now, it appeared that Marvel was willing to play ball with multiple distribution techniques and channels. We had MCU shows on network TV, cable, and several streaming sites. In one quote, however, it blows that all up. New MCU TV is apparently only going to come via ABC, Freeform, another ABC channel, Hulu, or Mouseflix. (Hulu is 25% owned by ABC, and thus Disney.)
Q: Does that mean Daredevil, The Defenders, Punisher, etc. is leaving Netflix?
A: Not immediately. Netflix is already in production on a new season of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Iron Fist. Those shows likely will mean Netflix and Marvel continue as is through March of 2019. One would assume that Netflix has those characters somewhat locked up, but that is only an assumption. It is interesting that these shows give Netflix just enough to get to 2019, the same year as the release of Mouseflix. Moving these shows to the new Disney streaming service appears to be a possibility. Shows do move networks from time to time (see Supergirl going from CBS to the CW and the continued efforts to get Agent Carter on something other than ABC for a third season).
Q: Does this mean that I can stop dreaming of a Moon Knight Netflix show?
A: It is unclear exactly how things work with Netflix and Marvel. The THR article does suggest that Marvel considers spin-off potentiality in their deals (New Warriors might have some potential for spin-offs that will go with the rights to the original show), so it could be that Netflix has options on characters to grow organically out of Netflix programs. Obviously, that has happened already with this month’s Punisher. So maybe Moon Knight or Blade or White Tiger or some of the other fan-favorite hopes could come from within the Defenders shows. On the other hand, if Disney is getting aggressive in their competition with Netflix, then why introduce characters and keep them away from their own streaming service?
Q: Why is Disney doing this?
A: TV is changing in two important ways. The first is streamlining the production and distribution process. Back in the day, ABC might make a show and it would be bought by CBS. This created some extra costs, but the money was good. As ad revenue shrinks, more and more networks are trying to air only shows they produce when possible. This has led to some surprising cancellations and tense negotiations in recent times. (If this concept is still a bit confusing, think of it like Wal-Mart brand food. Wal-Mart can make more money selling its own brand of bread than either Wal-Mart or Wonder Bread make by selling Wonder Bread at a Wal-Mart. Streamlining the show producer with the distribution channel makes it cheaper to make.) Second, streaming is becoming the new TV. Disney wants to get into that market in a major way. Proprietary content is the fastest way to get there. As a company, they did not pay billions for Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel just because. They knew that those fan bases were reliable consumers.
Q: So what is the big takeaway here?
A: I think there are two major things to takeaways from this story. (1) Disney is getting bit time proprietary, so start planning another $10-20 bucks a month in your 2019 budget now. Disney is now painfully aware (see ESPN hemorrhaging subscribers) that TV is fading and streaming is rising. They are going to do what they need to do to get part of that pie. Even if New Warriors won’t fit schedule-wise and Daredevil and crew stay put, there will be something on Mouseflix that MCU fans will want to watch. Disney seems to be circling the wagons and bringing everything in-house. I anticipate the full back log of non-Netflix shows (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Inhumans, Cloak & Dagger, etc.) will soon only be on Mouseflix and not Hulu or Netflix.
(2) TV is dying. At this point, I’m reading between the lines, but I don’t think this is only about scheduling. I think that is just corporate talk. (Somehow the THR story states that Freeform fought like crazy to get Squirrel Girl and also willingly gave her up because they couldn’t find room for her on their schedule. That’s a bizarre paradox.) When New Warriors looked great, Marvel felt like it was a waste to put on a fledgling cable channel. So they decided to move it. My guess is that Hulu will be the place to put it, with ABC wanting to capitalize on the Runaways buzz that’s coming. With ABC rating dwindling as well, streaming is the future. Even if some of that analysis is off, the end message is the same. All the hottest properties on TV are actually on your computer. Already Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime are taking over the Emmys and it seems unlikely that Marvel will shop things to ABC and Freeform if they can sell them to Hulu, or better yet, distribute themselves via a service they own.