The Umbrella Academy Wasn't Marvel - But Is Still A Big Hit
As previously stated, Netflix doesn't often release official viewership data, and when the company does, it's not measured in the same way as other television series. As a result, it's tough to tell how many people actually watched The Umbrella Academy over its first weekend. If The Umbrella Academy is renewed for season 2, that's a good indication of the show's success within the Netflix model, but since the company doesn't make those decisions right away, we must refer to reviews and general social media buzz. In the case of The Umbrella Academy, reviews were on the positive side. It didn't draw as much critical acclaim as those early seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but still earned generally favorable reviews with 71 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 61 on Metacritic. Further, it was arguably the most buzzed about new TV release of its debut weekend on social media.
The Umbrella Academy was a typical Netflix hit insofar as the TV show wasn't heavily marketed (though it was marketed more than some other releases from the streaming company) but once it debuted, word-of-mouth caused it to become one of the more talked about shows on the platform this past weekend. That's par for the course for Netflix nowadays, as they typically take lesser known properties or original stories and bring them to life in a way that appeals to its vast audience. More often than not anymore, Netflix doesn't trade on name brand franchises or big stars to sell their TV shows. Instead, like with The Umbrella Academy, they take a niche property and adapt it to a compelling TV show.
But while some Netflix Originals content isn't always quite up to par with the quality fans expect from the streaming service, The Umbrella Academy is solidly good. It takes a lesser-known comic book and expands upon it so that it can appeal to both fans and viewers who've never heard of the Umbrella Academy comics. Netflix has built a strong enough brand and platform that they can produce good content, put it in front of their users with little to no marketing and still have a hit.
The Umbrella Academy Proves Marvel Wasn't Really The Draw
When Netflix and Marvel TV struck their original deal, Netflix was very much looking for high profile TV shows to make a name for itself in quality content. House of Cards and Orange is the New Black were their first hits, which arguably traded on the star power of Kevin Spacey and Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, respectively, but still laid the groundwork for Netflix's current strategy of creating targeted content for its viewers using original or lesser known stories. Still, the Marvel streaming shows were first greenlit at a time when Netflix was creating event-style content and releasing it less regularly. Now, Netflix's strategy is more about flooding their service with originals every week of the year. If any of their original movies or TV shows become an event, it's now the viewers creating that mentality rather than Netflix engineering it. Though, of course, Netflix does still have an idea of which originals are more likely to foster that event-like social media buzz, such as Bird Box or The Umbrella Academy.
All that's to say, while Netflix may have made the deal with Marvel to get some high-profile original content, even from the beginning the streaming service was building up their own brand so that it could one day be more of a draw on its own than even Marvel. Now, as the Marvel shows declined in viewership while Netflix had hits with largely unknown or completely original properties, it seems the streaming service has effectively achieved its goal of earning its users' trust. Users don't need a name brand or a big star to watch a Netflix original anymore, and The Umbrella Academy is just the latest in a long list of hits that prove as much.
More specifically, if Netflix can take a comic book superhero property as niche as The Umbrella Academy and turn it into as much of a hit as we saw in the show's first weekend, it proves the streaming service doesn't need the brand name of Marvel to sell superhero content. As such, Netflix has outgrown its deal with Marvel and it makes sense the streamer has officially cancelled all their Marvel shows. But while that particular relationship has ended, Marvel is moving forward with streaming shows on Hulu and Disney+ and Netflix will continue to expand its superhero lineup with its Millarworld projects and - hopefully - more of The Umbrella Academy.