The Punisher is the fifth Marvel Comics character Netflix has created a series for and it's so far enjoyed mixed reviews. Jon Bernthal's marine-turned-murderous vigilante was first introduced in Daredevil season 2, and after skipping The Defenders, has now returned to the streaming service in violent fashion. However, The Punisher may be the last new series based on any Marvel property on Netflix and that has everything to do with Disney's plans for their own streaming service.
In 2012, Netflix and Disney brokered a deal that allowed the latter's films and TV series to be streamed on the global service. That included classic animations and Pixar films, Lucasfilm properties and many additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This deal came into effect in 2016 but a year later, Disney confirmed that they had already made plans to sever their ties to Netflix so they could distribute their movies and TV shows through their own subscription service.
The move certainly seemed inevitable given the growing success of Netflix and other streaming services like Amazon Video, Hulu and HBO Now. Netflix in particular has benefitted from their partnership with Disney as their original series centered around Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage have been some of their most popular offerings. Obviously Disney thought that they should be the ones profiting the most from their creative content, not another entertainment company. And, given that they had just bought the controlling 75% stake in BAMTech - a tech firm specialising in web and mobile platforms - it seems no time was like the present for getting their ducks in a row ahead of a streaming service launch in 2019. Disney's CEO Bob Iger made that clear in a statement released earlier this month:
"No other entertainment company is better equipped to navigate the ever-evolving media landscape, thanks to our unparalleled collection of brands and franchises and our ability to leverage [intellectual property (IP)] across our entire company. We look forward to launching our first direct-to-consumer streaming service in the new year, and we will continue to invest for the future and take the smart risks required to deliver shareholder value."
So what does that mean for current and future Marvel content on Netflix? Will they be removed from the streaming service in less than two years? No, not according to Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Fritz, who says, "the Marvel shows currently on Netflix, and any spin-offs from them, will stay on that platform." So that means seasons 1 of Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, The Punisher, The Defenders and seasons 1 and 2 of Daredevil will remain on Netflix. The upcoming second series of the first three Marvel shows and third series of Daredevil, all expected for release in 2018 and 2019, will also remain on the subscription platform.
That's because Netflix didn't just licence the shows to be streamed on their service, but they also co-produced them. So they are just as much Netflix's property as Marvel. It certainly makes sense for them to have brokered a deal that would allow them to keep the streaming rights to these shows as they are some of the biggest draws for subscribers - and it's through the subscriptions that they make their money. Currently, Netflix is said to have 104 million subscribers globally - losing such a significant chunk of their programming could dampen their ability to maintain those numbers and draw in more.
According to Forbes, 10.7% of Netflix's subscribers streamed Daredevil alone, Jessica Jones secured higher ratings than most network shows with 4.8 million viewers in the 18-49 range and Iron Fist, shockingly, was the most binged-watched series of 2017.
Though no plans have been officially announced for a second season of The Punisher, it certainly lends itself to a follow-up. Frank Castle may have gotten his vengeance on those who murdered his wife and children but that doesn't mean his vigilante efforts are over. Especially with Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) set up to appear as his deformed and evil alter-ego Jigsaw. However, given the criticism over the extreme violence shown in the television show at a time when extreme violence in America seems to be hitting the news repeatedly, both Marvel TV and Netflix might want to hold fire until the climate is less toxic. They of course may be waiting a while for this to happen.
If anything, Netflix's deal with Marvel over the original series seems rather similar to the one the studio has with Sony over Spider-Man. That's because Marvel and Sony co-produced Spider-Man Homecoming, with the former taking control of the film's creative direction and the latter responsible for distribution. In Netflix's case they were in charge of distribution via their streaming service while Marvel Television were the creative brains behind each season.
Of course, just because Disney are launching their own streaming service doesn't mean they won't potentially give their blessing for Netflix and Marvel TV to team up again. Right now, as you're reading this, they may have already put into motion plans for a Blade or Moon Knight show. However, given the push Disney are making to expand a significant number of their portfolios, with even more Star Wars trilogies in the works, and animation sequels, it seems more than likely that any new Marvel series will be made for their own service rather than Netflix's.