The Marvel Netflix shows have been dropping sharply in popularity according to new viewership data provided exclusively to Screen Rant. This certainly explains the surprising, high-profile cancellation of Iron Fist and Luke Cage - in the case of Iron Fist, just a month after the release of season 2.
Netflix has always been reluctant to provide viewing figures for its series. "Once we give a number for a show," Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos explained to the New York Times in 2016, "then every show will be benchmarked off of that show even though they were built sometimes for very specific audiences." But that means viewers struggle to understand the rationale behind the streaming giant's business decisions, and cancellations become shocking and surprising.
Given the absence of solid data, analytics firms have stepped in to fill the gap in our knowledge. Screen Rant has spoken exclusively to Jumpshot, a San Francisco-based analytics company. Their anonymized global panel tracks five billion actions a day across 100 million devices to deliver insights into online consumer behavior. To compile the data on Netflix Originals, it looked at the viewing behavior and activity of the company's US members. While this data has limitations - it's US-specific and based on clicks rather than explicit viewing habits - it nevertheless gives us our best look yet at just what's going on with the Marvel series.
- This Page: Marvel Netflix Shows Have Been Losing Viewers Since Daredevil Season 2
- Page 2: The Big Drops For Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil
- Page 3: Why Marvel Netflix Shows Are Losing Viewers
Marvel Netflix Shows Have Been Losing Viewers Since Daredevil Season 2
Jumpshot began monitoring Netflix viewing habits in 2016, and for the purpose of this analysis they've created an index to show the relative number of viewers against Daredevil season 2. As seen in the above graph, there's a disturbingly clear downward trend; bar two notable examples, every season got substantially less than the one before, to the point that Iron Fist season 2 came it at just a quarter of Daredevil season 2.
While it's not unusual to see that kind of pattern with a long-running show, it's far more surprising to see it clearly running through multiple different series. It suggests that audiences are interacting with the Marvel Netflix brand as a single entity, rather than dipping in and out of the different series. And that's a huge problem for Netflix.
It's important to understand that Sarandos wasn't lying when he seemed to hint viewing figures don't mean as much to Netflix as they do to other companies. Netflix is a data-driven company, and the secret to their success lies in algorithms. A sophisticated algorithm divides viewers into roughly 2,000 "taste communities," with each person part of three or four of them. The more shows a person watches, the more the algorithm understands which taste communities they're part of, and the more it tailors Netflix's recommendations to their individual interests. So long as each Marvel Netflix series retains its own discrete audience, then they're still a good investment for Netflix. However, if viewers really are interacting with Marvel as a brand rather than with the individual shows, then they lose value for the streaming giant; they may no longer be appealing to those diverse taste communities.
In the end, should the trend continue, there will come a time where only the hardcore Marvel fans are tuning in; given Netflix will lose the bulk of its Marvel content to the Disney streaming service, that will probably be the point of no return for the Marvel/Netflix partnership.
Punisher and Daredevil Season 3 Are The Only Shows To Improve On The Trend
Only two shows seem able to resist the downward trend; The Punisher and Daredevil season 3. While neither season came close to matching Daredevil season 2 where the pair were last seen, they both saw increased viewership compared to the shows that came before.
Unsurprisingly, these are the strongest individual brands in the Marvel Netflix range; Daredevil is a popular character who's even been star of a movie before, and his series has a level of brand recognition that Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist frankly don't. Season 3's first-week performance is gratifying, and hopefully strong word-of-mouth will bolster it. A fourth season may well be a smart move.
The Punisher, meanwhile, has often been described as a cultural phenomenon. "The Punisher is perhaps the most ubiquitous comic character, worldwide," comic book writer Nathan Edmondson told ComicVine when discussing his Punisher run. "Soldiers wear him on their uniforms who haven’t read a comic in their lives; sex toys are nicknamed for him, racecars and wrestlers take on the skull or namesake, despite having little awareness of the actual comic." Unfortunately, though, it's possible to overstate the strength of The Punisher brand on Netflix; the series may simply have experienced a first season "bounce." The extra viewers didn't stick around for Jessica Jones season 2, which returned to the trend, but will they return when the second season of The Punisher streams next year? The answer may well dictate whether or not Netflix move to signing off spinoffs like Daughters of the Dragon or Heroes for Hire.