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Nation & World

'Punisher' and 'Jessica Jones' lose their battle in the war between Netflix and Disney

Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) is once again on the run in the second season of “The Punisher” on Netflix. The series was canceled Monday. MUST CREDIT: Marvel/Netflix
Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) is once again on the run in the second season of “The Punisher” on Netflix. The series was canceled Monday. MUST CREDIT: Marvel/Netflix

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.

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