Marvel hooks up with Netflix

(Geek Exchange)
(Geek Exchange)

In a sign where online video distributors are ramping up their original programming slates, Marvel Entertainment announced Thursday it is pairing up with Netflix to launch four new serialized series beginning in 2015, with thirteen episodes each, scheduled for “multiple years. ”

First on tap is Daredevil, followed by series based on Marvel Comics characters Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage.  After all four series conclude their runs, Marvel and Netflix plan to launch a miniseries titled The Defenders, based on the Marvel characters of the same name.

The deal is a major expansion of Netflix’s original programming slate, which began with the revival of former Fox sitcom Arrested Development and originals House Of Cards, Lilyhammer, Helmock Grove, and Orange Is The New Black. Recently, Netflix signed a deal with Dreamworks Animation to provide the service with 300 hours of original programming.

The Marvel deal is an outgrowth of an overall Disney deal, which gives Netflix exclusive rights to its theatrical product starting in 2016, bypassing premium cable.

Indeed, Netflix and other online video distributors (mainly Hulu and Amazon) are slowly and surely becoming huge players in the television marketplace with high quality programming which is making Hollywood take notice: Netflix not only became the first streaming service to get an Emmy nomination, but received fourteen of them with one show (House Of Cards) winning three.

The purpose of Disney’s purchase of Marvel in 2009 was to expand its television production and did so under Jeph Loeb, whose authored many of Marvel’s graphic novels and worked on several series such as Lost and Heroes. The first project in the Disney era (Agents of Shield) has been deemed a creative and ratings disappointment, given all the hype. Not only Shield hadn’t been able to beat CBS’ NCIS head-to-head on Tuesday night, but the show also wasn’t able to put away another competing show, Fox’s Dads. The critically-loathed Seth MacFarlane comedy has been a surprising strong draw among men 18-34, taking away viewers from similarly-targeted Shield.

In addition, Shield regularly finishes behind aging Grey’s Anatomy and red-hot Scandal on its own network in the key 18-49 adult demo, and is drawing far fewer viewers than Dancing With The Stars.

On the creative side, Shield has been criticized for being poorly executed, and creating characters no one cares about.

These are the exact challenges Marvel’s new offerings are facing. Are these series going to be “binge-watching” worthy (meaning you spend your entire day watching all episodes of the same show because you have nothing else better to do?) So far, reaction on message boards have been positive, and anticipation will be building for the next two years in the Marvel fanbase.

Did You Know? In the Marvel Universe, The Defenders are a group of assembled superheroes who made their first appearance in Marvel Features #1 in December 1971.  In the television universe, The Defenders was the name of two, unrelated CBS programs – a critically-acclaimed, Emmy Award-winning courtroom drama with E. G. Marshall from 1961-66, and a forgettable, critically-blasted lawyer comedy-drama with Jerry O’Connell and Jim Belushi airing the 2010-11 season (talk about a vast contrast between two shows with the same name.)