With the release of Season 2 of The Punisher, many fans are preparing for what seems like the inevitable news of the series’ cancellation. Though it produced some of the hottest shows in Hollywood, the Netflix/Marvel agreement has ended with a whimper, as Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil were recently canceled. But a surprise contender has stepped up to express interest in saving Marvel Television's greatest underdogs -- but don't get too excited.
Hulu is no stranger to Marvel’s properties; its the current home of Runaways, a live-action adaptation that has built a solid fanbase by straying from and expanding upon the source material. Th streamer also recently announced a slate of four animated Marvel properties joining its growing library, and has apparently expressed interest in adding the Netflix Defenders universe to its service.
"Marvel has a ton of titles we’d be interested in," Hulu Senior VP of Originals Craig Erwich said when asked about possibly reviving the canceled Netflix series during a presentation for the Television Critics Association. "It kind of just depends on when they’re ready, [and] who, most importantly, is going to be behind these things."
Who and when are the key points to take away from Erwich’s comments. The logistics of taking a property so firmly entrenched with a streaming giant like Netflix are staggering, and more than a little improbable.
It definitely makes sense for these characters to come to Hulu. After all, Hulu’s relationship with Disney and, by extension Marvel, is stronger than ever. Not only does the recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox mean Marvel will get back film rights to big players like X-Men and the Fantastic Four, it means Disney will have a 60% stake in Hulu. This has led to the studio creating a roadmap for the streaming service to host mature content it wouldn’t typically feature in the MCU, and makes the addition of titles like Jessica Jones and The Punisher a seemingly easy lock.
The fact of the matter is, the mature nature of the shows puts them at a disadvantage right out the gate. While Disney may be eyeing Hulu as a home for content that is not exactly family-friendly, the Netflix shows reveled in the looser standards afforded the streaming service. Daredevil shocked viewers when it opened with Kingpin brutally murdering a thug with a car door, and only scaled up from there. Jessica Jones dabbled in the loss of self-control and created a uniquely self-destructive heroine. The most recent Punisher season featured some of the most violent sequences to date, including one particularly gruesome weight room brawl.
But it’s not just the series' adult nature that makes them an unlikely fit for Hulu. After all, the upcoming animated slate, headlined by a Kevin Smith-penned Howard the Duck series, are aimed explicitly at an adult audience. What the animation initiative does prove, though, is a desire for a wider audience. The Netflix titles have proven to be incredibly popular, but ratings (or the streaming equivalent) are king, and trying the same thing again and again, hasn’t really proven an unmitigated successful.