Even a superpowered vigilante doesn’t stand a chance in a shifting landscape of universe-crushing media titans.
Netflix announced Monday that it was canceling the last of its Marvel TV series, “The Punisher” (starring Jon Bernthal as the bent-on-justice Frank Castle) and the Peabody Award-winning “Jessica Jones” (the Krysten Ritter-starring detective show that has one season left to air).
They are the final dominoes to fall in the epic Netflix-Marvel superhero partnership launched in 2013 with “Daredevil.” The Man Without Fear series, as well as “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage” and the team-up “Defenders,” had previously been canceled.
Those six series, which found varying degrees of critical and social-media reception, are unfortunate victims of owner Disney’s determination to play the long financial game.
Netflix has become a “$152 million behemoth,” in the words of the Hollywood Reporter, since introducing streaming in 2007. So while it might have made sense for Disney/Marvel to join forces with Netflix in 2013, Disney and other media giants - like NBCU and WarnerMedia - are now determined to build up their own streaming services big enough to challenge Netflix.
As THR aptly framed it Tuesday: “Each conglomerate is now faced with the same multimillion-dollar question: Keep their scripted originals and library content for themselves or continue to license shows - like Jessica Jones (owned by Disney), The Office (Comcast) and Friends (Warner) - to friend-turned-rival Netflix.”
Disney, under chairman Bob Iger, is far too savvy in its empire-building to continue to license valuable content to Netflix.
Consider that within the past 13 years, Disney bought Pixar for $7.4 billion (2006); purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion (2009); landed Lucasfilm for $4 billion (2012); and is spending more than $70 billion to buy 21st Century Fox studios and other businesses.
Given such staggering libraries of content, a massive global footprint, mighty merchandising power and lucrative superhero, sci-fi and animated universes, Disney would be foolish not to go all-in with its own entertainment streaming service.
(For some context, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed nearly $18 billion worldwide over a decade; Disney’s four “Star Wars” releases have grossed nearly $5 billion since 2015; and five Disney Animation/Pixar films have topped $1 billion in global gross since 2013, not adjusting for inflation.)
Then there’s the fact that once the Fox deal closes, as THR notes, Disney will gain a majority ownership stake in Hulu.
So what does that mean for fans of Disney titles?
Well, it should mean that the development announcements about forthcoming Disney+ offerings will start landing at a fast and furious rate.
It should mean that a swath of “Star Wars” series will be launched, in addition to two announced series: “The Mandalorian” and a “Rogue One” prequel series.
It should mean more MCU spinoffs besides the three already announced series centered on Loki; the Winter Soldier and Falcon; and Vision and Scarlet Witch.
And after the Marvel/Netflix title characters are put on contractual ice for a while, Disney could eventually revive superheroes such as Daredevil and Luke Cage - returning them to a streaming service.
Only then, Disney will profit from all ends of the operation.