There’s simply too much television out there. I’ve said this in past articles, but the more I click, swipe and scroll my way through the massive catalogs of television, it’s an impossible task to keep up with the programming. Granted, I’m usually the sceptic of the social base, too proud to hop on what’s trending only to find out that the hype is warranted. With so much intriguing television — that includes a limited amount of “reality” TV — it’s heartbreaking to discover a program that made it to your ‘My List’ or ‘Favourite’ was guillotined after that awe-inspiring cliffhanger.
This was the case of Marvel’s Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones. Their demise came as a surprise. Streaming titan Netflix axed each of the Marvel properties in a span of year, with Jessica Jones being the only show aware of its mortality during production. It’s the end of a neat chapter in Marvel’s Pop Culture takeover. However, given the size of the Infinity Stones that Marvel and parent company Disney, who am I to doubt the strategy entering Phase 4 of the Marvel MCU?
The cancellation of the four series provided a more mature Marvel, becoming the tentpoiles of the new Netflix identity. Apart from other headlining titles such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, the streaming giant’s foray into the caped crusader realm seemed logical and profitable. Based on their social influence and ability to generate conversation, the Marvel titles were considered a success. Netflix doesn’t release its viewership numbers for any of its content, but think pieces about their superhero lineup can be found across any blog or entertainment site. Everything seemed peaceful in the streaming universe.
That was, until Marvel became bigger than Netflix.
Avengers: Endgame didn’t surpass Avatar as the top-grossing movie in the box office, but it was the biggest film of the last decade — a culmination of 26 Marvel films, tying in arcs that began with Iron Man. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU) has been so prolific at the box office that not even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could throw a wrench into their plans. Despite the regrettable passing of the founder and face of the company, Stan Lee, the superhero business continues to thwart all comers in its takeover of Hollywood. At this point, I would be surprised if Denzel Washington doesn’t get fitted for a cape in the near future.
Its dominance of the box office well in hand, Marvel now has its sights set on controlling the narrative of all its entities. With titles such as Spiderman, X-Men and Deadpool soon to fall under the comic book umbrella, it was only a matter of time before the company went after its small screen content. In short order, the brand-new season of the shows mentioned would debut, be greeted with critical acclaim and then cancelled in subsequent order. Many a consumer was perplexed by this trend, which spurred plenty of think pieces trying to figure out why.
One of the most popular answers was Disney’s move to establish its own streaming service. Disney+ is set to launch in the US this November. While Marvel is one of their headliners, Stars Wars and Pixar properties will also make their home on the new service. Yes, this Mickey Mouse operation is set to challenge Netflix’s place atop the streaming throne. Along with producing its own lineup of programming, all theatrical releases from Disney will eventually make their way to the service. That means that Captain Marvel, Endgame and the upcoming Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalkers will never make their way to Netflix. According to initial reports, Disney+ will cost $7 (US) compared with the $12 that consumers are paying for Netflix on a monthly basis.
So to answer the question posed in the title of the article, competition and greed are the reasons that Marvel — or better yet, Disney — threw a wrench into Netflix’s current model.
While the cowls and capes appear to be on the way out, we have to wonder what the counter from Netflix will be. Are we on the precipice of the end of the ‘Netflix and Chill’ era? Probably not. Doubling down on its own intellectual properties, Netflix has been angling towards producing its own independent films and series. Bright, Birdbox and When They See Us Coming are titles that have all made ripples in pop culture recently. As for the void in the world of good and evil, Netflix has partnered with Marvel’s lifetime rival, DC Comics, to air Titan and stream a few DC TV series such as Arrow and The Flash. Of course, you can still catch every season of Daredevil, The Punisher, Luke Cage, The Defenders and Jessica Jones on Netflix as much as you like. Each of the Netflix-produced series fall under Netflix’s roof. See? Disney can’t take everything.
The competition for your attention continues to heat up among streaming platforms. Time will tell who comes out the big winner, whether it’s us the consumer or the content providers. I can tell you that the biggest loser in all this change has to be conventional broadcast channels that will need to scour for more content for their platforms. Where’s a hero when you need one.