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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Daredevil Test for Disney

November 30, 2018

For those surprised by Netflix’s announcement that it was cancelling “Daredevil” after three seasons, well, they haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on in the expanding online streaming marketplace. The big question is: Does this mean that Netflix’s various Marvel series – “Daredevil” and Company – will suffer permanent deaths or be resurrected, like so many superheroes who have been killed off in comic books over the decades yet somehow come back to life?

Disney not only owns Marvel but has its own streaming service, Disney+, arriving next year. That means the Marvel-Netflix collaboration announced in 2013 was bound to come to an end. And it wasn’t like this came out of the blue, given the previous cancellations of “Iron Fist” and “Luke Cage.” And after we see new seasons of “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher” arrive in 2019, news will eventually come that these two series will be cancelled by Netflix as well.

So, is this the end of these renditions of “Daredevil,” “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage,” “Jessica Jones,” “The Punisher,” as well as “The Defenders”?

One school of thought argues that is the case, given that these more adult-themed shows don’t fit the stated intention that Disney+ will be limited to family-friendly fare. For good measure, announcements for Marvel limited-run shows on Disney+ have been firmly rooted in the Marvel movie universe, specifically shows featuring Loki, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Therefore, it’s assumed that Daredevil and friends just don’t fit.

It might play out this way, but there’s also hope for a comic-book-like resurrection. First, it’s interesting to note that Netflix’s statement on the end of “Daredevil” on its service concluded, “While the series on Netflix has ended, the three existing seasons will remain on the service for years to come, while the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel.” Hmmm.

Could that mean that Disney would rein in the adult content of these series to make them fit on Disney+? That decision wouldn’t go well with fans of the shows.

But there’s more to consider. Once the Fox deal is finalized, Disney will own 60 percent of Hulu. The company also has indicated that if its Hulu partners – Comcast and AT&T – would like to sell their stakes, Disney would be interested. And Disney has made clear that its R or R-like fare would find a home on Hulu. In addition, Hulu could use a kick in the pants in terms of competing, along with Disney+, with Netflix, and other existing and emerging streaming services. Is it crazy to think that the “Daredevil” and Company series would serve as a nice foundation for expanding Hulu subscribers? I don’t think it’s crazy at all, in fact, it has a certain logic to it. Dare I say “obvious”?

It’s clear that many fans would love to see this outcome. They consider the outcome for “Daredevil” and Company a kind of test for Disney on how it plans to handle the non-movie Marvel universe going forward. Finding a home for “Daredevil” and Company at Hulu would seem to be good for fans, for Hulu, and therefore, for Disney.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with the three latest books being Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, Heroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story and Shifting Sands: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story. He can be contacted at raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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