Why did Netflix choose to cancel The Punisher? When news finally broke that the streaming giant had pulled the plug on The Punisher (as well as Jessica Jones) nobody was really surprised. Over the last few months, the relationship between Marvel and Netflix seems to have been winding down; even Daredevil, the flagship Marvel Netflix show, was canceled after three excellent seasons. But some fans had still hoped there was a chance for The Punisher, a spinoff that wasn't part of the original deal and mostly disconnected from The Defenders. It seems that wasn't to be, though, and The Punisher has joined the ranks of the Marvel shows that have been canceled by Netflix.
Netflix issued an official statement in which they thanked everyone involved in the series, including showrunner Steve Lightfoot and the exceptional cast, especially star Jon Bernthal. Marvel's Jeph Loeb responded to the news with a statement of his own, dedicated in equal measure to the cast and crew and to the fans who had continued to tune in to the Marvel Netflix shows over the years. "Our Network partner may have decided they no longer want to continue telling the tales of these great characters," he noted, "but you know Marvel better than that." Given Loeb's note of optimism, it's worth asking just why Netflix decided to cancel The Punisher in the first place.
The first reason is a simple one; the various Marvel Netflix shows are expensive to produce and there's evidence they just weren't performing well for the streaming giant. Although Netflix tends not to publish viewing figures, third-party analytics shared with Screen Rant suggested the Marvel series have been losing viewers for years. In fact, the general decline in viewership was what you'd expect to see in a single long-running show; it suggested viewers were interacting with Marvel as a discrete brand, rather than with each series individually. In the end, there would naturally come a time where only the hardcore Marvel fans were tuning in.
It's worth noting that The Punisher season 2 did buck this trend a little, and is believed to have lost viewers at a slower rate than the other shows; for all that's the case, though, it was still losing viewers. What's more, demand for The Punisher was surprisingly low through 2018, and was outstripped by Daredevil in January - in spite of the fact a new series aired. Even though some had been hoped it would survive, there wasn't audience interest to entertain that discussion.
But there are other, strategic reasons as well. Netflix signed up to their deal with Marvel back in 2013, when they needed these high-profile properties in order to stand out from the crowd. Fast-forward to 2019, however, and Netflix has a very competitive slate even without Marvel; they can launch an unknown property and make it a hit overnight. Netflix isn't short of comic book adaptations and superhero properties either; they're aiming to build a whole universe based around Millarworld, and it's surely no coincidence these latest cancellations were announced straight after The Umbrella Academy premiered over the weekend. Netflix simply doesn't need Marvel anymore.
Ultimately, Netflix made a decision to draw a line under its partnership with Marvel. The truth is that viewers were fortunate to get The Punisher season 2 at all, which was already in production when Netflix began canceling the various Marvel series. Unlike Iron Fist or Luke Cage, though, at least The Punisher didn't end on a cliffhanger of any kind.