Could the recent cancellation of Marvel’s lineup of shows on Netflix signify the superhero bubble has burst? After a decade of dominance on the big and small screen, has the genre finally peaked? Not bloody likely. However, forthcoming shifts in the streaming-video landscape have resulted in a wave of changes that will impact fans’ viewing habits moving forward.
This fall, Netflix announced “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil” would be ending their runs. The culling came as a surprise to fans and even series staff, like “Luke Cage” showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, who had already begun writing episodes for the now-scrapped third season. The futures of Marvel’s two remaining Netflix shows, “Jessica Jones” and “Punisher,” remain unclear.
While both “Iron Fist” and “Luke Cage” enjoyed niche audiences, “Daredevil” was objectively a ratings hit for Netflix. According to Deadline, the series was the fourth-most-popular show on the platform at the time of its cancellation. The report further explained the show had close to 30 million “demand expressions” last month, putting it ahead of popular shows like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “House of Cards,” and “Orange is the New Black.”
So why on earth would either Netflix or Marvel want to cancel such a successful show? It’s all about business.
In 2015 when Netflix and Marvel launched their extended cinematic universe-adjacent fleet of shows based around the publisher’s New York street-level heroes, the streaming giant was the biggest kid on the playground. In media terms, that was eons ago. Marvel has since pursued projects on other services like Hulu, which is home to “Runaways” and Freeform’s “Cloak & Dagger.” That’s in addition to its longtime broadcast-network partnership with ABC, which is home to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the ill-fated “Inhumans.”
Now comes Disney+. As the House of Mouse enters the streaming arena, it appears to be bringing its myriad properties, which includes Marvel and Star Wars, home to bolster the offerings of its new platforms. The exclusive acquisition of those two immensely popular and profitable properties alone — to say nothing of the near-infinite opportunities for spinoffs within their respective extended universes — already makes Disney+ a formidable new player.
While fans may tingle at the prospect of having all those properties in one place, it marks the arrival of another must-have monthly subscription service. It’s also a reminder of the fluidity of content offerings on these platforms, which change seemingly without notice as licensing agreements change and new services emerge.
It’s a frustrating new media landscape exemplified most recently by the uproar over rumors “Friends” would be leaving Netflix at the end of this year. While Netflix assured fans the sitcom is staying put at least through 2019, its future home is up in the air with the launch of Warner Media’s own streaming service next year.
The constant reshuffling and consolidation of content is not only irksome, it’s expensive. When streaming video services and devices emerged several years ago, they promised freedom from pricey cable subscriptions and cumbersome packages that saddled subscribers with unwanted channels. Cord cutters could now dine à la carte with a variety of on-demand options. But now, the glut of services, combined with the perpetually rising cost of internet access, has resulted in home entertainment bills that match, if not exceed, monthly cable bills. And, with more services arriving each year, it’s a situation that doesn’t look to be improving any time soon.