The Marvel Cinematic Universe has exploded since its inception in 2008. When things began, fans thought it meant a series of interconnected movies. Maybe two would come out in a year, and that would be it. Fast forward to the present day and Marvel has a slate of nine yet-to-be-released films announced and in some stage of production, six Netflix shows in some place or the other, an ABC show airing, and both a Hulu show and Freeform show in pre-production. That is a ton of content. Scheduling all those properties is a major headache, particularly for the Netflix shows. Fans have been begging for more information on production and release schedules for the Netflix gaggle of properties. Jeph Loeb opened up about that process recently, but he really didn’t say much.
The first major issue for Loeb is that he is largely at the mercy of the networks, unlike the film counterparts.
Unlike the motion picture division, which has the ability to say, ‘On this date we’re doing Ant-Man 2,’ the television driving is always going to be talking to our [network partners], and they’re the ones that are going to tell us whether or not there’s going to be another season. I can’t do anything about that. All we can do is tell the best stories we can and hope that the audience comes.
This feels a little disingenuous. ABC, Freeform, and Hulu are all partners that share some corporate infrastructure with Marvel. (ABC and Freeform are both Disney subsidiaries like Marvel, and Hulu is 30% Disney owned.) What this really means is something like, “Buena Vista distribution (Disney’s film distribution arm) is far more accommodating of Marvel Films than ABC is of Marvel TV.” The TV arms of Disney are generally less supportive of the Marvel brand than the film side of the Mickey Mouse corporate giant.
Another major question has been the capacity of Marvel TV to produce more and more content. Surely a point comes at which they simply cannot produce another show. Loeb doesn’t seem concerned.
I don’t think that we would ever do anything that would set out to damage the stories that we’re telling. So is there a particular number [of shows we can produce]? No, but what’s great about working with any of the networks that we’re working with is they have a very good sense as to what they feel that they can order at the buffet…Netflix is very different from ABC, which is very different from FX. They all have a different way of putting their shows on the air. And so I don’t perceive there to be a problem, simply because we’re not telling stories that are necessarily in conflict with one another.*
Fans of the MCU may forget that Loeb also oversees projects for the X-Men and other non-MCU Marvel properties. That means he also has some say in the development of FX’s Legion and a rumored X-Men show on Fox. Loeb’s general approach is to let the networks decide what they can handle. So the six Netflix shows are not a problem because Netflix production is aware of the resources and time needed to put out their product.
So, does Loeb give any sort of schedule for when fans can expect The Defenders or Iron Fist or The Punisher? No. And he isn’t likely to do so anytime soon.
We very much have a schedule as to when things are happening, but we have chosen to say, look, this is where we are right now. I also personally tend to find that when you talk about something that’s coming, as opposed to what is happening right now, that people want to talk about the new thing, the new, shiny penny.
In other words, stop asking about the upcoming shows because Loeb doesn’t want them to overshadow the current show. Loeb knows when they are coming, he just doesn’t want to tell you. His desire to allow each show a chance to shine makes some sense and probably goes over well with the casts and crews who would like a season in the spotlight. (One can only assume that Loeb is probably not pleased with all the Doctor Strange material that upstaged Luke Cage at times this week.) On the other hand, this approach seems woefully behind the times. The hype and anticipation for a film or TV product are now a major industry in and of itself. The film side feeds the beast by putting teasers for future films in the post-credit scenes of movies. The subtle message is “Always be hungry for more…” Loeb’s comments also seem to miss the bigger questions being asked. How much time should realistically pass between two seasons of a show like Jessica Jones? Are Marvel and Netflix scheduling shows in such a way that puts off fans of a single show for the favor of those who watch them all? Is it sustainable to keep green lighting material and yet only release two Netflix shows a year?
The long and short of it is that viewers should not expect Marvel TV and Netflix to have a major event announcing release dates for their shows ala Marvel Films. Loeb as the man in charge simply doesn’t believe that is a good philosophy. The “one show at a time” philosophy is a way that Marvel TV and Films are very different beasts. So sit back, and enjoy Luke Cage, because nobody knows when the next Netflix show will come.
*The original source has some of these comments in a paragraph with the indication “she said.” The text is ambiguous, but it appears that was a typo and these are Feige’s comments.