The Marvel/Netflix partnership has given us some of the best stories in the MCU, but it looks that’s all about to end as Disney begins its quest for streaming dominance. This week’s seen a flurry of Disney-related news, with a new trilogy of Star Wars films from Rian Johnson being announced just after it broke that new live-action Star Wars and Marvel shows are in the works. That latter piece came as part of the unfolding story of Disney’s upcoming streaming service, which has raised a lot of questions about Marvel’s future.
Awhile back, word broke that Disney would be pulling all of their titles from sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime by 2019 ahead of creating their own streaming service. Not only will Disney, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel Studios films and series all now live on the proposed site, but new content will be developed exclusively for it. Fans were mixed on the possibilities, but one big question emerged: will Netflix lose its Marvel TV shows?
Unlike the other MCU properties Daredevil and the rest of the shows under the Defenders banner – were produced by Netflix. As such, yanking them off the service seems logistically impossible. But will Disney strongarm their former partner?
It’s been confirmed that future Marvel shows will be exclusive to Disney’s service. The existing shows, however, will stay on Netflix. What’s more, it’s said that any spinoffs of those shows will also stay on the site. Netflix keeping the series they helped to create makes sense, but will Disney allow them to make future seasons of shows like Jessica Jones and The Punisher, or license out new characters for said spinoffs?
The specifics of Disney’s new streaming service are still unknown. For instance, it’s assumed that shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Cloak & Dagger will still air on ABC and Freeform, respectively. But if Disney is expecting fans to pay for their exclusive streaming service, will ABC and Freeform also host the shows on their various sites? If you pay for cable, do you get to watch shows on ABC’s site like you can now, or will they only live on Disney’s streaming service? This issue alone is complex when it just involves Disney-owned properties. Things get more complicated when it comes to other streaming sites.
While networks like ABC, Freeform, and Disney XD are solely owned by Disney, they share ownership of Hulu alongside other companies. This impacts Marvel’s Runaways, which is about to debut on the site; they can’t just pull it at a moment’s notice. Of course, they could work out some sort of licensing deal to allow it to also air on their site, but would Disney then want to sign off on future seasons of Runaways despite other companies splitting the profits? It’s this question that’s even more relevant for the future of the Marvel/Netflix universe.
As already established, The Defenders series stay on Netflix (although, given their violent content, Disney would be unlikely to want them). What’s unclear is if they’ll continue. New seasons of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are in production, and Daredevil and Iron Fist will start filming soon. As the Disney exodus doesn’t begin until 2019, there shouldn’t be any issues here. What fans will be anxious to know, however, is how it impacts seasons after that.
The Netflix deal allowed the MCU to tackle characters and stories they would never touch in their family-friendly films, and with all new Marvel shows being limited to Disney’s streaming service and networks like ABC and Freeform, it’s unlikely we’ll see any more like them. That’s where the notion of Netflix keeping their current shows alive, including spinoffs, comes in. It’s not a crazy idea; Netflix would continue to benefit from new Marvel material, the MCU could spin out more street-level heroes, and Disney keep some distance from the violent material while still reaping the reward of their success.
The news that spinoffs of the Netflix shows will remain separate from Disney’s streaming service is crucial, as it holds the promise for series based on Heroes for Hire and Daughters of the Dragon. There’s also no way characters like Moon Knight will ever make it to live-action without a non-Disney outlet. For Marvel Studios and their TV division, choking off potential IPs will be a no-go. Disney purchased the Marvel Universe to exploit its story potential; unless they’re planning on having an adult-oriented section on their new streaming site, it would be bad business to prevent some of Marvel’s grittier heroes from being brought to life. By keeping ties with Netflix, they could have the best of both worlds.
For now, this is all speculation. The news of Disney’s streaming service has been light so far, and even draft logistics haven’t been made public. Common sense, however, would seem to indicate that while Disney may want all of their properties under one roof, there’s something to be gained from keeping their relationship with Netflix going. Then again, with Disney trying to compete with the streaming giant, will the tension allow such a relationship to survive? For that answer, we’ll have to wait a bit longer.