It's a sad week for fans of Netflix's Daredevil, which has become the latest Marvel TV series on the platform to be canceled. Daredevil was riding the high of a critically-acclaimed season 3, which introduced Wilson Bethel as new villain Bullseye, and the writers room was already plotting out the show's fourth season. However, Daredevil has joined Luke Cage and Iron Fist on the pile of canceled Marvel/Netflix shows, seemingly as part of a larger decision by the streaming service to shutter its corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With those three cancelations, and no plans for a second season of team-up miniseries The Defenders, the only Marvel/Netflix shows now remaining are The Punisher and Jessica Jones - which will almost certainly be canceled after their upcoming second and third seasons (respectively). After Luke Cage and Iron Fist were canceled, many expected that The Punisher and Jessica Jones would follow. However, the news of Netflix's flagship Marvel show - by far the most popular of all the series - getting the chop as well came as a shock to many, especially after the highs of season 3. So, why did Netflix cancel Daredevil?
Related: Daredevil Canceled By Netflix
The Official Reason For Daredevil's Cancelation
Before moving on to the most likely reasons why Daredevil isn't getting a fourth season, here's Netflix's official statement on the decision:
"Marvel’s Daredevil will not return for a fourth season on Netflix. We are tremendously proud of the show’s last and final season and although it’s painful for the fans, we feel it best to close this chapter on a high note. We’re thankful to our partners at Marvel, showrunner Erik Oleson, the show’s writers, stellar crew and incredible cast including Charlie Cox as Daredevil himself, and we’re grateful to the fans who have supported the show over the years. While the series on Netflix has ended, the three existing seasons will remain on the service for years to come, while the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel."
So, if Netflix is to be believed, Daredevil was canceled because season 3 was just too good. While the mention of Daredevil living on in future Marvel projects might sound promising, it shouldn't be taken as a promise of anything - especially since it's coming from Netflix, not Marvel. That being said, Marvel TV could (in theory) produce a fourth season of Daredevil and distribute it elsewhere, since Netflix only owns the episodes produced so far, not the IP itself.
Netflix and Disney Are Growing Apart as Disney+ Approaches
Netflix and Disney (the parent company of Marvel Entertainment, which produces Daredevil) have enjoyed a partnership over the past few years, with Netflix distributing Originals like Daredevil, streaming full seasons of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after their initial airing, and acquiring a respectable library of MCU movies. However, Disney is set to launch its own streaming platform, Disney+, in 2019, and will be focusing on producing original content for that instead - like a Loki TV show and a limited series featuring Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Perhaps because of Disney's encroaching status as direct competition for Netflix, Deadline reports that "relations between Netflix and the Jeph Loeb run Marvel TV have become... strained." The decision to cancel Daredevil definitely seems to have come out of left field for Marvel TV, as Daredevil's co-executive producer Sam Ernst tweeted:
"Man, so weird to be in the Daredevil writers room today, getting the news that we're canceled. On the walls were an entire season 4 laid out - and it was so f***g cool. So many moments we wanted the fans to see... Sigh, this business."
So, in many ways Daredevil's cancelation wasn't really anything to do with the show itself or its performance, but is simply part of an unfortunate bigger picture. That being said, Netflix's decision might have been averted were it not for the declining returns of its Marvel shows.
Daredevil's Viewership Has Been Declining
Although Daredevil season 3 may have returned to the heights of its stellar debut season, the viewership numbers don't necessarily reflect that. In the interim three years, Daredevil season 2 was released and was seen by many as a decline in quality, with its focus split between the introduction of the Punisher and Matt Murdock's rekindled relationship with old flame Elektra. Daredevil's next appearance was in the team-up series The Defenders, which was also of considerably lesser quality. Netflix was also flooded with four more Marvel shows - Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher - in quick succession, making it harder for viewers to keep up with what was happening in this particular corner of the MCU.
Netflix doesn't release official viewership numbers for its shows and movies, so we don't have as accurate a picture of Daredevil's performance as the Nielsen ratings of traditional TV might have offered. However, industry analysts estimate that, in the first week of its release, viewership for Daredevil season 3 was down 57% from season 2. Daredevil is an expensive show to produce (around $40 million per season), so it's not too surprising that Netflix decided to cut its losses - especially amid a dissolving partnership with Marvel TV.
Daredevil season 1-3 are available on Netflix.