Marvel TV's success as of late has been notably impressive, even to the degree where we can argue the latest developments on the small screen front have been more impressive and rewarding than the films. On ABC, Marvel transformed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into must-watch, high quality storytelling that's pulling increasingly high profile elements from the comics.
And then there's the Netflix shows which speak for themselves. As I write this, Netflix and Marvel are in production on The Defenders which will bring together the likes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist (and maybe, just maybe, The Punisher as well)! Marvel TV has also established other major partnerships in the last few months for even more programming, including IMAX where in an unprecedented fashion, they'll debut the pilot for the upcoming Inhumans series in IMAX theaters, but more on that later! How did the Netflix-Marvel relationship begin in the first place?
While watching The Avengers again on home video in 2013, Marvel TV boss Jeph Loeb had a curious idea:
"Iron Man is falling out of the sky, and the Hulk is catching him, and my storytelling brain starts to think, 'If you went over to 10th Avenue and down a few blocks, you’d be in Hell's Kitchen where there's a group of heroes who are not really interested in saving the universe.' That’s a really interesting place to start a television series."
And that's exactly the backdrop for Daredevil season 1, where Wilson "Kingpin" Fisk and other crime bosses of Hell's Kitchen have a plan to take advantage of the destruction of Hell's Kitchen in the aftermath of the Battle of New York.
The goal from the beginning with the shows on Netflix was to mimic the successful connected universe building of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, of which nearly every major studio is trying to emulate as I write this. The original plan was to plan out 60 episodes of TV, four 13-episode seasons for individual character setups and another 8 episodes for a team-up miniseries. It's this bundle we wrote about over three years ago in fall 2013 (not too long after Loeb had that idea while watching The Avengers again) and at the time, reports had Marvel TV pitching it to the likes of Amazon, Netflix and WGN America.
A few weeks later it became official that Netflix was to be home of the Defenders universe that would begin with Daredevil in 2015. Of course, every show launched so far has been such a success that each individual character is getting followup seasons, including a spinoff for The Punisher.
As for why Netflix was the best fit, the idea of launching 13 episodes of a show all at once was very appealing (to everyone involved, and potential viewers). And back them, in 2013, it was still the very early days of original programming for Netflix. Even though Netflix execs weren't familiar with these characters they felt good about working with Marvel.
Loeb explains, with a laugh at the end:
"We weren’t interested in making four pilots and then hoping someday that they could all get together. Netflix really understood what it is we wanted to do. They’re very open to directors that might not have that same opportunity in broadcast television. The notion of having all 13 episodes at one time, particularly in serialized storytelling, is very appealing. All we were promising was that we would do better than Lilyhammer."
Going forward, Loeb and the Marvel TV division want to keep expanding their offerings on Netflix and everywhere else. It's why they're expanding beyond ABC and Netflix to form new relationships, new platforms, etc. with Marvel's Cloak and Dagger coming to Freeform and Marvel's Runaways coming to Hulu. Part of this idea is to hit new audiences to expand the reach of the brand, and to have more platforms so they aren't network-dependent. Loeb took a little fun jab here saying Marvel didn't want to cancel Agent Carter, hinting that it was all on ABC. By having other networks, they could potentially have fallback options to continue different shows and move characters around potentially.