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What Does Disney’s Break With Netflix Mean For Marvel’s Dramas?

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
What Does Disney’s Break With Netflix Mean For Marvel’s Dramas?

The world of entertainment grows more à la carte every day, as streaming platforms have redefined the way viewers consume their media. But with so many players in the movie and TV industry, studios are still in the process of figuring out how to maximize their own profits on such platforms. Netflix has been there from the start, pioneering the direct-to-consumer streaming service concept via a revolving door of content. Now, with so much of its content made in-house, Netflix has plenty to keep consumers hooked, and is relying less and less on movies and television shows generated by outside studios. Still, it came as a rather heavy blow when Disney announced that it will be pulling content from Netflix to start its own streaming services.

This news is major in that Netflix and Disney already have a working relationship beyond Netflix serving as a place to watch Disney movies. Where there is Disney, there is Marvel, and Netflix has several dramatic shows produced in conjunction with Marvel. So should fans of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Ironfist lament an end to their favorite shows just as The Defenders – not to mention The Punisher – gets ready to debut on Netflix? The short answer is: No — at least, not just yet.

Reading beyond the surface of Disney’s announcement reveals that it is ending only one of two contracts with Netflix. The 2019-expiring deal means Disney family movies – like the upcoming Lion King live-action film, Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 – will not be available to watch on Netflix after their theatrical releases. The agreement that links Marvel and Netflix through their original series stays intact, though it’s essentially fulfilled once The Defenders premieres. Netflix is aware that this could be a problem, however, leading the service to formally announce that it is actively negotiating with Netflix to maintain streaming rights to Star Wars and Marvel films past 2019, though the co-produced series were not discussed.

Will Disney Start A Marvel/LucasFilm Streaming Service?

Thus far, Disney has announced plans for two different direct-to-consumer platforms. One will focus on its sports content at ESPN, and the other family programming along the lines of what is currently offered on the Disney Channel. Disney CEO Bob Iger has already signaled that Disney is considering whether Marvel and LucasFilm programming will be included on the streaming service, or whether the tonally different content deserves its specific home. As far as comic-based content, the precedent is in the process of being set as DC has a streaming service in the works that will exclusively stream the live-actionTitans and animated Young Justice: Outsiders.

It would stand to reason that a studio with access to a never-ending vault of comic material would want a platform for that content which remained under its ownership. Marvel already has shows slated to debut on Freeform (Cloak and Dagger and New Warriors), ABC (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Marvel’s Inhumans), and Disney XD (Star Wars Rebels), a good number of series with which to pad a Marvel/LucasFilm streaming service. But there’s also a glaring reason to consider foregoing a streaming service for Marvel and sticking with Netflix: Its reputation.

Disney knows branding like no other studio. It has built an empire on being recognizable and family-oriented. Until it partnered with Netflix, Disney kept its subsidiaries in line with its mostly squeaky clean image. The Star Wars franchise appeals to both adults and children, and though darker themes play throughout, the films just fit with the Disney brand. Thus far, Marvel Studios films also fit the brand, and Marvel Comics has plenty of lighter material for Disney to adapt for years to come. But Netflix offer Disney the out to create content with an edge sharper than anything in the Disney brand. It cannot be understated that when Disney bought Marvel, it bought the darker and more violent comics in the publisher’s oeuvre, along with the fans of those stories.

Netflix’s original Marvel shows allow fans to see their favorite characters get gritty, and the companies’ separateness means there is no hit on the Disney branding. Disney would be smart – at least when it comes to Marvel entities – to spread its content around different platforms based on which home fits the material best. In this post-Deadpool world, there’s a demand for more abrasive comic adaptations, and Netflix provides the perfect home for Marvel.

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