A lot of Marvel fans were, well, blindsided when Daredevil was abruptly cancelled after three seasons on Netflix. The late November axing joins the growing list of Marvel properties that Netflix has ended this year, including Iron Fist and Luke Cage. The departure of Daredevil initially made many wonder if the world finally had its fill of Marvel titles, but a further inspection of the streaming landscape may paint the show’s departure into a very different point.
Luke Cage had its fans and Iron Fist certainly had a decent following as a comic, but neither were the critical or fan favorites that took up huge amounts of your neighborhood’s bandwidth when it came time to binge. Daredevil, however, was critically successful and drew huge streaming numbers for Netflix.
According to Deadline, which further reported on the show’s demise on Tuesday, the show was doing great numbers on the streaming giant when Netflix pulled the plug at the end of November. Daredevil was actually the fourth most popular show streaming on Netflix at the time it was announced there would be no season four.
Netflix has found great success in making its own prestige TV, and Daredevil was among the most popular of titles on the monthly streaming site. According to Parrot Analytics, the show was atop its list of most in-demand streaming titles according to its metrics.
Demand for the sightless superhero series was surpassed only by three shows (Narcos, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Stranger Things, all from Netflix) during the week ending Dec. 1, the chart shows. The chart measures “desire, engagement and viewership” with weighted values that, for example, would give heft to the total “likes” a show accumulates but not as much weight as the total number of actual viewings.
Daredevil, which was cancelled on Nov. 29, finished the month’s final week with close to 30 million demand expressions. It finished ahead of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale as well as Netflix peers like The Last Kingdom, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.
If Daredevil was so popular, though, why did Netflix cut the cord (do you get it do you get it) before it lost steam as a property? Netflix doesn’t often release streaming data unless it makes their original movies look good, but we can piece together some data points and put this into context. We know that Friends is Netflix’s most popular show that it acquired in a streaming rights deal, and it just re-upping that deal reportedly cost them three times what it did when they signed an exclusive deal with Warner Bros. TV in 2014.
Locking up Friends for a year at $80 million is a ton of money. But the biggest difference between Daredevil and Friends? Well, Netflix’s deal with Warner Bros. keeps Friends a Netflix exclusive — at least for 2019. Netflix, meanwhile, has little incentive to keep Daredevil going because of its tenuous relationship with Marvel and, by extension, Disney.
Yes, Disney’s forthcoming streaming platform has made a lot of presumably lame duck shows on Netflix. We know Star Wars and Marvel shows will come to Disney’s platform, and eventually all of Disney’s movies will leave other streaming platforms and enter the walled garden of Disney fun. But what of Marvel properties that are already well-established on other platforms? Well, they might head that way eventually, too, and many of those shows on Netflix were getting made with the streaming giant’s money, not Marvel.
While Netflix ponied up for production costs for the Marvel shows the streaming service had zero ownership stake in the IP. That limited upside was acceptable until Marvel’s parent, Disney, announced next year’s launch of Disney+, a direct rival to Netflix that will have Marvel Studios content as a flagship in its formidable armada.
Disney will also be withdrawing its past and present content from Netflix in the months ahead. That effectively reduced the Marvel shows on Netflix to the corporate equivalent of refugees.
There are still two Marvel shows on Netflix, though it’s unclear what will happen to Punisher and Jessica Jones at this point. The latter has been a hit, the former to a lesser extent, but both are in a similar spot as Matt Murdoch’s show. Just days after Daredevil was killed off there were rumors of a revival, potentially on Disney’s streaming site. What form a potential revival or reboot would take isn’t clear, but it seems all the momentum is pushing Disney-owned shows to Disney’s platform. Another sign the streaming web is getting bigger, sure, but also much more divided. And in a hurry.