In May of 2016, Disney struck a deal with Netflix for exclusive U.S. streaming for films under the Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm brands. This week, we learned that deal is coming to an end; the House of Mouse has acquired ownership of BAMTech, LLC, and now intends to launch its own streaming service in 2019.
For fans of #Marvel superheroes, the announcement was particularly troubling. Not only are we used to Marvel movies being distributed on Netflix, but the streaming site also has a profitable partnership with Marvel Television. We're less than a week away from release of the fifth Marvel Netflix show, The Defenders, the premiere of The Punisher is heading our way in November, and next year Marvel and Netflix actually look set to release four new seasons. How will this announcement affect the Marvel slate on Netflix?
1) Disney Is Considering A Separate Site
To fans' surprise, the initial announcement didn't cover Marvel and Netflix. We've since learned why; #Disney is actually considering launching separate streaming services for both Marvel and Star Wars. One of the reasons Disney flourishes is because it allows individual brands to stand on their own two feet. Marvel Studios may be owned by Disney, but the movies continue to exist as a separate brand. The same is true with Lucasfilm and Star Wars. That approach has been tremendously successful, and Disney doesn't seem too keen to change it.
As a result, Disney is apparently considering creating separate streaming sites for both Star Wars and Marvel. Disney CEO Bob Iger explained that, while there's talk of setting up these new services, the main concern is as regards the amount of content. That will be less of an issue for Marvel, with three Marvel movies released every year, and an ever-expanding slate of TV shows. It's also possible that this streaming site would involve creating original content, meaning that TV slate could continue to expand.
If Disney does choose this path, it will be pretty much the same approach DC is planning to take. Marvel's main rival in terms of superhero movies and TV shows is intending to launch a streaming site in 2018, complete with original content such as the Titans series.
Although this would frustrate viewers in the U.S., who are unlikely to appreciate paying out for yet another streaming site, this idea may well delight international fans. Global distribution of Marvel TV shows has been spotty; in the UK, for example, Agent Carter only ever got a DVD/Blu-Ray release, while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. regularly starts airing months after its U.S. launch. In less than a month's time, the first two episodes of Inhumans will air in IMAX theaters worldwide, but it's still unclear whether or not the show itself has been picked up by channels and networks for global distribution. A dedicated streaming site — one that operates internationally — may well resolve these issues.
2) Discussions Are Ongoing
Right now, though, this is only one possibility. According to Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, Disney and Netflix are still "in active discussions" about creating a whole new agreement between the two companies — one that covers just Marvel and Star Wars theatrical releases. It's too soon to know how those negotiations will go, but there's still a possibility that Netflix will continue to distribute these two powerful brands once they're out of theaters.
Sarandos insists that he doesn't see Disney's future service as a competitor; instead, he believes it will be "complementary." As he explained, this is one reason Netflix has been pushing original content, recognizing that streaming of proprietary content is the future of the entertainment industry, and that other companies will be getting in on the act, too.
3) The Netflix Shows
Meanwhile, fans don't need to worry about the future of the Marvel Netflix shows. As Alisha Grauso wrote for Forbes:
"The move will not affect the Marvel Netflix shows. The waters of the entertainment business can be muddy, and contracts hard to figure out for the average viewer, but rest assured that the Disney theatrical distribution deal and the Marvel Television development deal are two separate things."
That means #Netflix will continue to pay for and stream a massively successful range of Marvel shows. That will still be the case even if Disney pulls other Marvel content from the site, and may well be one reason for some reluctance on Disney's part to set up a separate Marvel site. After all, fans would need to subscribe to two sites to get all the Marvel content, rather than one.
Right now, Marvel fans can take a deep breath and stop panicking. Disney's current deal won't come to an end until 2019, meaning we'll continue to enjoy our Marvel content on Netflix for at least another year. What's more, Disney and Netflix are currently "in active discussions" that may well mean there's no change at all. Even if those discussions don't pan out, though, it won't affect those all-important Netflix Originals. The partnership between Marvel Television and Netflix is a completely separate entity, and shouldn't be affected at all by this latest news.
Do you think there should be a separate Marvel streaming site? Let me know in the comments!