As the working relationship between Marvel and Netflix has stuttered to a short and brutal conclusion, the future of the Defenders sub-franchise has become a subject of widespread speculation. With nobody other than Netflix themselves having wanted the shows to end, it seemed assured that Matt Murdock and his friends would simply transition across to Disney’s upcoming streaming service. A series of widely reported obstacles to that happening have instead thrown the future of the Netflix shows into doubt, but comments made by one Disney Executive this week may provide some timely festive cheer for fans.
Kevin Mayer, the incoming head of Disney+ was interviewed this week by The Hollywood Reporter. Whilst commenting on the future of a whole host of Disney projects including Hulu and Vice, he was specifically asked about the likelihood of future Defenders TV shows. Which resulted in this surprisingly optimistic response:
“They are very high-quality shows. We haven’t yet discussed that, but I would say that’s a possibility.”
Which will come as distinctly good news for fans. With the exception of Agents Of SHIELD, none of Marvel’s other television output has even come close to replicating the success of DC’s Arrowverse, and Mayer’s response seems to recognize this. Restarting production of The Defenders on their own terms would allow Disney not only to bring production costs back into line, but would also offer much greater opportunities to cross the characters over into their other MCU shows and movies.
In truth, the writing has been on the wall for the Netflix Marvel shows for a significant amount of time. Well, in their current form at least. After years of aggressive advertising and expansion, the major streaming platforms have all now saturated the available markets, finally reaching a maximum number of subscribers. With no obvious new cash injections on the horizon, the spiraling show budgets and production costs that customers had become used to would naturally have to be reigned back in.
Netflix’s decision to pivot towards cinematic releases, and away from TV shows also sounded the death-knell of their collaboration with Marvel. Needing to free up hundreds of millions of dollars in order to produce recent movie releases such as Outlaw King and 22 July, some existing projects had to be sacrificed. And with Marvel having no need or interest to work alongside the company in order to make movies, it’s only natural that the hovering axe would fall on such a costly partnership.
It’s been reported of late that the new Disney+ service will be presented as family-friendly, in an effort to make it appeal to the broadest possible demographic. This has naturally raised concerns that the company’s execs would rather not have parents searching the platform for Pixar movies or Star Wars shows for their kids, coming across adverts for Daredevil messing up a biker gang in a clubhouse corridor.
Alongside this, it was also reported that Netflix will still retain the production rights to their Marvel characters for another two years, meaning without a deal, Disney would not be able to continue or reboot the property until then. Add to this the announcement of a whole slew of new MCU television projects, including Loki and Scarlet Witch solo shows, it becomes less and less likely that the Defenders and The Punisher will be making a comeback – on Disney plus.
Other than the guys and girls who actually worked on the Netflix shows themselves, there’s been very little in the way of public announcement from anybody at the House Of Mouse over the whole sorry affair. With a long-standing history of bad blood and rivalry between Marvel’s movie and televisual arms, there’s been a growing sense that the execs would be more than happy to see the shows go the same way as Inhumans.