Why Isn't Marvel's Netflix Strategy Working?

It's no secret that Netflix doesn't dish out its audience numbers, but new data shows a trend that, until the cancellation of Iron Fist and Luke Cage, was somewhat of a secret: people aren't watching Marvel-Netflix shows like they used to. Is this a reflection of the overall streaming climate, or of the superhero genre?

Jumpshot, a San Francisco-based analytics company, says Netflix viewership for Marvel shows has steadily decreased since Daredevil Season 2 (via ScreenRant). Anyone who calls themselves a comic book nerd has noticed the trending discussion and hype around each series has noticeably declined over the years, even if a show is great (like Daredevil Season 3). So why aren't even the most devoted of comic book fans tuning in for every Marvel Netflix show?

It may be that Marvel is asking too much. There's essentially two separate cinematic universes: the film universe and the Netflix universe. Each universe is sequential. Yes, you could watch each movie or show individually, but it's not the optimal experience. And even if you don't miss anything, you'd think you were missing something. That chase used to be half the fun, but now keeping up with Easter eggs and references and inside jokes between shows feels like a chore. And a two hour Marvel film is a much more approachable, and action-packed, universe to follow than a Netflix TV show spanning 13-hours.

"I'm already behind, I couldn't get through Iron Fist or Defenders and I have one more Luke Cage episode," said one disgruntled Newsgeek staffer. And it's not an uncommon sentiment.

Binging TV can be great, but it can be daunting too. One look at the Netflix home screen is all the reminder one needs that there's just too much to watch. Back in 2015, when Daredevil kicked things off, Marvel wasn't as ubiquitous and Netflix had far less original content. Now, Netflix has six original superhero shows (and even more streaming, such as The CW's offerings). That's not to mention more options across overlapping fandoms like science fiction, anime, fantasy and adaptations. Catching up with Luke Cage to watch The Defenders to watch Daredevil Season 3 is too much work...why not just watch Maniac instead?

Another major disadvantage of the binge-watching formula; you have to wait a year—often longer—before the next season comes out. There was a three-year gap between Jessica Jones Seasons 1 and 2. The act of binge-watching also affects how these shows are covered. For better or worse, traditional weekly broadcasts allow hype to build, creating more excitement for the next episode. The Marvel-Netflix formula does not allow for that type of ingestion, no matter how good the show is. DC's new streaming service plans to stick to a weekly schedule. Going forward it will be interesting to see how each platform's original shows are received by fans. Is bulk delivery of episodes the problem, or is the streaming audience simply oversaturated with superhero stories?

Streaming platforms seem to be reaching a breaking point. There's just too much, too many apps, too many providers. It's arguably more annoying keeping track of them all, and all the separate release dates, than forking up the extra bucks for cable. Marvel's about to make it even harder with the upcoming launch of the Disney streaming service. The Marvel-Netflix approach attempted to replicate the successful design of the MCU, and according to Jumpshot's data, it hasn't worked in the long-run. That being said, everything good must come to an end, and if the end of this era means ditching the past to advance the oversaturated superhero formula, than so be it.

Thoughts? Sound off in the comments.

Why Isn't Marvel's Netflix Strategy Working? | Culture