Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC is to Marvel TV what Iron Man was to Marvel Studios – the first building block in a larger, connected scheme. Beginning in 2015 with Daredevil, Marvel’s TV division will begin to launch one of four officially announced upcoming series on Netflix, leading to a crossover miniseries event dubbed The Defenders.

The other three connected shows, all based in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, follow Marvel superheroes Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Danny Rand (Iron Fist) – finally giving screen time to characters who’ve been talked about for years but never pushed into feature film development. As it turns out, they’re simply characters who were never going to get a shot on the big screen.

Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige will tell you that the film division has a rough outline of their plans going all the way up until 2021, a schedule that defines what projects and characters will make up “Phase 3” and “Phase 4″ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. According to Disney CEO Bob Iger, who spoke with analysts during a fourth quarter earnings meeting for The Walt Disney Company yesterday, the confirmed characters are described as “not among the most popular” and for Marvel, “were never going to become feature films.”

Iron Man wasn’t among the most popular characters when it debuted in 2008 and before word of Guardians of the Galaxy getting an adaptation began to spread online, very few people knew their stories, but we do understand what he means. The truth is, there are big movie plans in place for years to come and the characters and feature films placed into development are all building towards bigger goals and adding something “different” to Marvel slate.

Iger continues, explaining that the Netflix deal is a “win win deal” for Disney and the service provider, but there’s an obvious extra “win” for fans who will have the ability to watch an entire 13-episode season without commercials, in one big marathon run on Netflix. He added that bringing these multiple, connected programs to Netflix “is a great opportunity to monetize some great characters.”

While the official announcement yesterday didn’t mention the possibility of the shows and miniseries being connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we expect them to be. If certain characters prove popular, they could then potentially show up on the film side, perhaps one day joining The Avengers. Either way, more diverse characters are getting screen time and Netflix model allows the creators to have more freedom in storytelling and in tone.

[poll id=”712″]

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on Tuesdays @8pm on ABC.

Thor: The Dark World releases November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie & TV news!

Sources: Deadline, Zacks