Viewing Figures Suggest Marvel Netflix is In Trouble
Netflix is notoriously reluctant to release viewing figures, but third party analytics companies are sometimes able to lift the lid on what's going on. In early November 2018, one such analytics company provided exclusive data to Screen Rant that indicated the Marvel Netflix shows were in trouble. Jumpshot had only been monitoring Netflix viewing habits since 2016, but they were able to demonstrate declining viewing figures across the board. The trend suggested that viewers were interacting with Marvel as a single brand, rather than with each show individually. There were some exceptions; The Punisher and Daredevil seemed more resistant to the decline in viewership. But on the whole, this report meant the future looked very bleak for Marvel Netflix. This provided some justification for Netflix's recent decisions, such as the cancellation of Iron Fist and their insistence on cutting Luke Cage down to 10 episodes in order to reduce costs.
Daredevil Is Canceled In November 2018
On November 16, Daredevil showrunner Erik Oleson pitched season 4 to Netflix. By all accounts, Marvel was confident of renewal, and towards the end of the month they'd even assembled a writer's room; the cast were hearing rumors that filming would begin in February 2019. Then, on November 29, Netflix announced that Daredevil was canceled. Becher-Wilkinson was actually in the middle of creating a writing schedule for season 4 when the news came down.
"[Showrunner Erik Oleson] got a call asking him to go down to see the Marvel executives, and I jokingly went 'Ooooooooh,' like a third grader does when someone gets called to a principal’s office.Then, he waited for everybody to gather back in the writers’ room and he said, 'Netflix has decided not to move forward with season four.' And that’s all I remember, you know. I kind of missed the details because I was, like, so surprised."
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Co-executive producer Sam Ernst told a similar tale, reflecting on the fact Daredevil season 4 was already laid out and was packed with "so many moments we wanted the fans to see." On November 30, Erik Oleson treated his writers - including Ernst - to a sushi bar in commiseration, and several Marvel exec members dropped in as well. According to Ernst, they were just as stunned as everybody else. "If I was a betting woman, you know, my guess is that it’s the end of the Marvel universe on Netflix," Becher-Wilkinson noted.
Many fans began to speculate that the Marvel Netflix shows would move to either Disney Plus or Hulu, Sadly, on December 12 there were reports that a clause in the deal between Marvel and Netflix prevented Marvel from including the characters in new TV shows or films for two years after cancellation.
The End of Marvel Netflix In February 2019
By now, it was clear that the Marvel/Netflix partnership was at an end. Two final seasons had been produced - The Punisher season 2 and Jessica Jones season 3 - and everybody assumed these would be the last Marvel shows to stream on Netflix. Even the cast expected that to be the case, with Deborah Ann Woll reflecting that The Punisher season 2 would most likely be the last. The second season dropped on January 18, with star Jon Bernthal reflecting that he'd made his peace with The Punisher's fate.
Showrunner Steve Lightfoot remained optimistic, even suggesting that The Punisher season 3 could pick up Charlie Cox's Daredevil and Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin as secondary characters. No doubt hopes were buoyed a little by news that season 2 viewership hadn't declined at the same rate as the other Marvel Netflix shows. But those hopes were destined to be dashed; on February 18, 2019, Netflix officially canceled both The Punisher and Jessica Jones, with the upcoming Jessica Jones season 3 to be the last Marvel Netflix series. "We are grateful to Marvel for five years of our fruitful partnership," Netflix noted, "and thank the passionate fans who have followed these series from the beginning."
The gulf between Marvel and Netflix was neatly displayed by the fact that, when Iron Fist was canceled, the two companies issued a joint statement; now, Netflix announced the end of the partnership, and Marvel issued an entirely separate response in which they too thanked the fans for their commitment. "Our Network partner may have decided they no longer want to continue telling the tales of these great characters... but you know Marvel better than that," Marvel observed, signing off on an optimistic note. "As Matthew Murdock's Dad once said, 'The measure of a man is not how he gets knocked to the mat, it's how he gets back up.'" Whether or not the canceled Marvel shows come back on another network down the line, the fact is Marvel's era on Netflix is officially over.