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Marvel and Disney strike series deal for ‘Defenders' on Netflix

George Lang Published: November 7, 2013

Disney and Netflix were already joining forces thanks to an exclusivity agreement, but a new deal to build original series based on four Marvel characters looks superpowered.

On Thursday, Netflix announced that it was partnering with Disney and Marvel to build individual series around Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. The four 13-episode series, which are scheduled to debut in 2015, will culminate in a miniseries titled “The Defenders,” in which the four heroes join forces. The deal seems to fit with an already set plan to make Netflix the home for all of Disney’s live action and animated films beginning in 2016.

While several Disney Channel and Disney Channel XD offerings were already on the streaming service beginning last year — shows such as “Phineas and Ferb,” “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “A.N.T. Farm” — the studio began putting some of its older animated titles on Netflix in early 2013. Recent additions include second “golden-age” animation titles such as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “The Emperor’s New Groove,” along with a smattering of early animated films such as “Dumbo” and “The Aristocats.” So far, Disney has yet to post any of its indisputable classics such as “Bambi” or “Cinderella,” but those are expected to be part of the 2016 rollout.

Here’s the rub: these rollouts start happening in two years. Given Netflix’ recent stock trajectory, I have fairly strong confidence in the service’s continued prominence in this still-emerging industry, but it’s that growth that makes me wonder if, in 2016, this is going to be as big of a deal as it feels today.

Both Netflix and Amazon Prime are actively seeking new licenses for single shows and the outputs of entire networks. Amazon’s deal with Viacom earlier this year gave them all of Nickelodeon — a huge win in the battle for young viewers — and its exclusive deals for CBS series such as “Under the Dome” and “The Good Wife” were strong moves, as well. Similarly, Netflix cut recent deal with Viacom-owned Showtime to bring the entirety of “Dexter” back to the service. I noticed when I opened “Dexter” last week that it still indicated that I had watched those first four episodes of the series back when it was originally on Netflix two years ago, proof that Netflix pays attention to everything you watch.

So it’s anyone’s guess just how massive the offerings are going to be on Netflix in 2015 when the “Defenders” shows go live on the service. The “Defenders” could either be marquee offerings, or they could be just a few shows in a full slate of 2015 programs, competing with the fall offerings on whatever is left of traditional television by that time.
George Lang