On November 7th, Netflix and Disney’s Marvel Studios announced ambitious plans to add four new series and a mini-series event based on Marvel Comics character to the streaming service’s growing stock of original programming. This deal will bring series based on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage to Netflix starting in 2015.
Over the last year, Netflix has transformed itself from a DVD rental and streaming service to a producer of critically acclaimed original content. House of Cards, Arrested Development, and Orange is the New Black have all been hits with critics and viewers. House of Cards was the first internet-only series to be nominated for a major Emmy Award. While Netfix has not released specific viewership numbers, they revealed during the July 2013 earnings call that Orange is the New Black had more first week views than Arrested Development or House of Cards.
Disney’s Marvel Studios has grossed $5,119,385,799 in revenue worldwide since 2008. Marvel’s first stab at traditional television programming (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) has had weak ratings and mixed critical response. Despite weak ratings, ABC has ordered a full season.
The partnership between Marvel Studios and Netflix makes perfect sense. Netflix is able to feature more original content from high profile producers. Marvel Studios has the freedom to produce content without the constraints of traditional commercial television. Like HBO or Showtime, original programming on Netflix does not need to draw a mass audience to be successful. Netflix does not need to rely on advertisers or traditional television scheduling. Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, while popular among comics fans, might not be able to carry a feature length film the way Iron Man or Captain America can. However, this will be a huge win for both companies, as it will allow Marvel Studios to use lesser known characters that may have stayed on the shelf, and will give Netflix more clout as it grows its original programming division into a real competitor for networks and cable alike.