In just a fortnight we've seen Netflix cancel two of their popular Marvel shows, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, which a lot of fans hope will stream on the upcoming Disney streaming service, but that's simply not going to happen. While the characters may well return as cameos, or potentially as co-stars in new spinoffs, they won't be switching from Netflix to a rival streaming service.
The streaming giant is never forthcoming about the business reasons for its decisions, but it's generally believed Iron Fist was canceled due to poor viewing figures. In contrast, reports indicate that conflict between Marvel and Netflix led to the cancellation of Luke Cage, with the partners wanting to push the show in different creative directions. These decisions don't necessarily write Danny Rand and Luke Cage out of potential cameos or even new Netflix spinoffs, of course, but they most certainly leave their future uncertain and Marvel's Netflix slate substantially diminished. That's led to intense speculation that Disney is trying to get the Defenders franchises for its own streaming service, which will launch in late 2019.
We may not know what the future has in store for Luke Cage and Danny Rand, but one thing seems certain - they're not going to the Disney streaming service, reportedly called Disney Play. According to the New York Times, Disney Play is largely being driven by ascendant Disney executive Ricky Strauss. He's been given creative oversight of programming, and is responsible for - in Disney's own words - driving "the strategic content vision." Strauss is believed to favor family-friendly programming, and that Disney Play shouldn't involve R-rated and mature content; he doesn't think that's how people interact with the Disney brand. That means the Marvel Netflix shows wouldn't fit; they're aimed at a different demographic to Disney Play's expected audience.
In the cases of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, the situation is even worse. Disney hopes to make the streaming service a major competitor, launching a massive range of original content. Do they really want to risk turning it into the place Marvel shows go when they've been canceled by networks or rival streaming sites? That problem is especially potent for Iron Fist. In spite of a dramatically improved second season, it's still the most controversial Marvel Netflix show to date. We don't have any idea of viewing figures for season 2 - Netflix never likes to go public about stats like that - but it's assumed to have performed poorly. It's safe to assume that any Marvel Television original content designed for Disney Play will be high-budget, high-quality. After all, it will be sitting next to original content from Marvel Studios, spinoff eight-to-ten-episode shows starring actors like Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen. Content that's failed on another platform is highly unlikely to be relaunched on Disney Play.
In any case, there's another practical reason Disney would be unwilling to produce further seasons of Luke Cage and Iron Fist on Disney Play. Previous seasons are Netflix Originals; Netflix paid for them, and they possess the distribution rights on a permanent basis. Assuming Disney made a third season of Luke Cage or Iron Fist, then, you'd also need to be subscribing to their biggest competitor in order to make sense of it. They'd have limited potential for picking up brand new viewers.
No doubt the relationship between Marvel Television and Netflix is growing a little more strained due to the upcoming launch of Disney Play; that may be contributing to problems in a partnership that, up till now, has been extremely productive. But Disney Play won't be picking up the canceled Marvel Netflix shows.