Anyone who’s upset that the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t as good as they thought it would be can now take comfort in knowing that this isn’t the end of the Marvel Universe’s convergence on the small screen.
Today Marvel announced that it was bringing four live-action, original superhero series and one special miniseries exclusively to Netflix’s streaming video service. That’s right, tiger, Netflix just hit the jack pot. (And if you don’t get this, you need to read more Spider-Man!)
Each of the four superhero series will get a minimum 13-episode season, meaning there’s a possibility that Netflix will order additional episodes. The first series getting developed will be based on the blind crime fighter Daredevil, which Marvel recently reobtained the film rights to. It will be followed by series based on superhero detective Jessica Jones, mystical martial arts hero Iron Fist, and Hero-for-Hire Luke Cage. All of the series will then wrap their respective stories into a special miniseries called The Defenders, which is yet another classic superhero team from the enormous library of Marvel Universe stories.
The new Marvel series are expected to debut on Netflix in 2015.
If you require further explanation for why this is a big deal, I’ll just assume you never read comic books growing up. Part of the allure of Marvel Comics is that all the stories exist within the same universe — a living continuity where things that happen in one comic effect the story in all the others. Marvel has brought this experience to its blockbuster movies like Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor — with all of them leading to The Avengers.
I feel like most kids growing up probably dreamed of having this type of storytelling happening on TV, maybe even more than movies. It simply never happened because it would require serialized stories that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to jump into if you missed a few episodes. The traditional TV business model therefore wasn’t able to support multiple TV live-action series like this (it worked with animation with the DC universe) for fear that the audience wouldn’t be able to follow along and thus advertisers wouldn’t spend money on commercials to support the show.
Netflix, however, is built for serialized TV shows that you can binge-watch in a single day if you so choose — making an original TV series deal with Marvel a perfect match. And since Marvel has already built up an enormous fan base from its feature films, cartoons, and comic books, these new original TV series will have a built-in audience. (So for those who are more interested in watching Netflix slowly evolve the business of television content than superhero shows, this would be a pretty big milestone.)
“This deal is unparalleled in its scope and size, and reinforces our commitment to deliver Marvel’s brand, content and characters across all platforms of storytelling. Netflix offers an incredible platform for the kind of rich storytelling that is Marvel’s specialty,” said Marvel Entertainment president Alan Fine in a statement.
The new Marvel content is just the latest crop of original series Netflix is bringing to its streaming service exclusively. The company previously saw success with its House of Cards series, which was the first digital exclusive TV show to both be nominated and win an Emmy. Netflix also said its viewership for its other original series — including Orange is the New Black, Hemlock Grove, and Arrested Development — has also been well received among its subscribers.
Of course, we don’t know how much this deal is costing Netflix, nor do we know how its domestic subscription business will fair over the next two years — so while I’d expect subscriptions to go up, it could very well go the opposite way even if people want to watch these shows. (This is because spending lots money on an exclusive Marvel content deal could mean that the company doesn’t have money to spend on other content in the meantime to keep its subscribers happy.)
But for now, I’ll just say excelsior!