Can the Marvel Netflix shows possibly be saved from cancellation? October was a disturbing month for Marvel fans, with Netflix pulling the plug on both Iron Fist and - just a week later - Luke Cage. Since then, third-party analytics have suggested that there's a simple reason: the Marvel Netflix series have been losing viewers for years, and both Iron Fist and Luke Cage lost two-thirds of their viewership between their first and second seasons.
In spite of these disappointing figures, though, there's evidence that the Marvel Netflix brands are still strong. According to Parrot Analytics, demand for the remaining shows is high, with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and The Punisher all sitting within the top 0.03 percent of most "in demand" series worldwide. That news will no doubt have encouraged Daredevil showrunner Erik Oleson, who's just pitched season 4 to Netflix.
If the Marvel Television/Netflix partnership is to continue, then both the streaming giant and the television studio need to learn some important lessons. All three remaining series still have the potential to be hits, and it's just a matter of realizing that potential.
- This Page: Some of the Core Problems With Marvel Netflix
- Next Page: How Netflix Can Deal With The Problems
There Were Too Many Marvel Netflix Shows
When the Marvel and Netflix partnership began in 2015, the streaming giant was wary of releasing too much of the same kind of content in a year. As a result, audiences were initially treated to just two seasons every year. That changed in 2017, when Marvel released three; this year, there have been four. There hasn't even been much of a gap between the different shows, either, with Iron Fist season 2 releasing on September 7 and Daredevil season 3 on October 19. It seems likely that Marvel reached a saturation point on the medium, with audiences getting tired of too much of the same thing. It's also possible that the low time-gap between the different releases meant audiences became more aware of the Marvel shows' weaknesses, such as their pacing problems, and simply began to tune out.
This increased output is reflective of Netflix's overall push to release more original content every year, but it looks as though the Marvel Netflix series are now getting drowned out. Making matters worse, it's important to remember that Netflix don't really bother to promote their shows much; they depend on their algorithms to do their marketing for them, with promotional slots based on the algorithm's reading of a user's interests. Given the Marvel Netflix shows are all part of the same genre, that means they're effectively competing with one another - as well as with all the rest of Netflix's content. No less than 60 different Netflix Originals premiered in October, and when Daredevil season 3 released on October 19, it was competing against 10 other Netflix Original series and three Netflix movies.
Fortunately, there are signs Marvel and Netflix may have already learned this lesson. So far, next year, the only shows expected to release are Jessica Jones season 3 and The Punisher season 2; neither is going to be renewed until after their next season has aired, so that inevitably slows the pace. While Oleson has pitched Daredevil season 4 to Netflix, it wouldn't necessarily release in 2019. Indeed, Marvel and Netflix may be wise to go back to the two-seasons-a-year model.
Marvel Netflix Shows Were Too Inconsistent
Meanwhile, the problems have been compounded by the inconsistent quality of the Marvel Netflix shows. Daredevil season 1 was a powerful, intense drama with deep character-work, tremendous actors, and stunning fight choreography. Contrast that with Iron Fist season 1, which had leaden pacing, flat characters, and some of the worst fight scenes around. Series star Finn Jones was hardly an accomplished martial artist, and his character spent much of the story unmasked, meaning stunt doubles couldn't be used. He later claimed he only had ten to fifteen minutes to learn the fight choreography for some scenes.
Viewing figures released by Jumpshot have hinted that audiences interact with the Marvel brand on Netflix as a single entity. If that's the case, then Marvel need to be very careful; one weak season reflects on the rest of their productions as well. A weak season of Iron Fist drives viewers away from Jessica Jones. It's possible this issue will be less pronounced with some of the remaining shows, given it's generally believed the Daredevil and Punisher brands are stronger than the rest of the Marvel Netflix slate. But that's not an excuse to make weaker series; rather, it's cause for a note of optimism, that the decline in viewership can, hopefully, be averted.