Ever since the release of Daredevil Season 1, Marvel fans have watched the Netflix shows with delight. Where the ABC TV series have been light entertainment, the Netflix shows have been dark and gritty. Jessica Jones dared to dig into the psychology of rape victims, while Daredevil Season 2 introduced us to Jon Bernthal's tremendous Punisher.
Marvel Netflix started out with a commitment to make Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, with a Defenders series wrapping it up. But I don't think anybody had expected the outstanding reception the shows got; Daredevil Season 2 was swiftly commissioned, and Netflix eventually announced Jessica Jones Season 2 as well. To top it all of, today we learned that the success of Daredevil Season 2 will lead to a Punisher series!
But Marvel's Netflix success might actually cause some problems...
When are all these shows going to be released?
In July 2015, Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos explained to Variety how Netflix planned to handle Marvel content:
“I think ideally there will be a rhythm of about every six months you’ll get a new season or a new series from the Defenders group. And then they’ll crossover into a combined [Defenders] season once we’ve launched the first season of each of the four characters.”
So Netflix's plan is to release Marvel content every six months. It's a matter of record that they've been following that pattern. But here's where it gets awkward.
Back before Jessica Jones Season 2 was announced, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg dropped a bombshell on THR when they asked about the possibility of another season:
"There are logistics involved, because Defenders has to shoot by a certain time, contractually."
We know that Luke Cage is to be released on September 30th 2016, with Iron Fist following it in early 2017. It's widely believed that the contractual requirement for Defenders is for the first season to be released by the end of 2017 (although note that these are only strong rumours; we've not had official confirmation). The most likely outcome of all this is that Defenders will round out 2017.
If Netflix are still sticking to the six-monthly release plan, then Jessica Jones Season 2 and The Punisher will most likely be 2018's releases. Which may explain why Netflix are yet to announce Daredevil Season 3, but raises awkward questions if Luke Cage and / or Iron Fist perform well. The longer the time-gap between a first and a second series, the greater the risk that momentum will be lost.
This, incidentally, is probably why Netflix are taking a longer time to announce each new series. Daredevil Season 2 was announced only eleven days after the success of Season 1, but recent announcements have been weeks or months after a release. With more shows to balance out and less time in which to operate, Netflix are having to make very careful strategic decisions about which shows to commission.
How could Netflix deal with this problem?
I think the reality is that Marvel's Netflix shows are performing far better than anyone could ever have expected. Given that success, to me the most logical solution is for Netflix to change their plans; to increase the number of Marvel Netflix shows they release each year, perhaps to four at three-monthly intervals. It's a risky decision - there's a chance they'll oversaturate the market - but otherwise they simply risk some of their shows never getting the chance to thrive.
Let's face it, this is a great problem to have! The success of Marvel's Netflix shows looks likely to force a complete change in gameplay for Netflix, and that in itself is exciting to see. With Marvel Entertainment commissioning yet more TV shows as well, it seems we may well be getting more Marvel than we could ever have expected...