DISNEY AND NETFLIX IN DEAL FOR SERIES BASED ON MARVEL CHARACTERS
c.2013 New York Times News Service
LOS ANGELES — A squadron of Marvel superhero shows is coming to Netflix.
The streaming TV service said Thursday that it had acquired a package of four drama series and one mini-series — about 60 episodes — based on the Marvel characters of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage. Marvel and ABC Television Studios, divisions of the Walt Disney Co., will produce the programming, which will start to unspool on Netflix in 2015.
The programs will take viewers “deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York,” according to a statement from the companies. The four series will culminate in a mini-series called “The Defenders,” billed as an event “that reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing heroic characters.”
Netflix, the home of original dramas like “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards,” has lately been escalating its strategy of trying to differentiate itself from competitors through a subset of original programming rather than a stockpile of dated films and TV shows. On Monday it announced that it had acquired rights to “The Square,” a documentary about Egyptian street protests that is expected to be an Oscar contender in March.
For Marvel, the deal represents a substantial expansion of its live-action television operation. Its first effort, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” made its debut on ABC last month and has been popular (especially with younger men) if not exactly a breakout network hit; a crossover event is planned with the movie “Thor: The Dark World,” which arrives in theaters Friday, that could bolster ratings.
Alan Fine, president of Marvel Entertainment, called the deal “unparalleled in its scope and size,” in a statement released by the company. Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, noted that Marvel movies like “Iron Man” and “The Avengers” had been “huge favorites on our service around the world.”
The small-screen rollout will attempt to replicate Marvel’s “Avengers” movie strategy. The company first made stand-alone movies for characters such as Iron Man and Captain America and, once it had ignited a wide fan base for each, combined the characters into one megahit film that has now become a franchise. The second Avengers film, “Age of Ultron,” is expected to arrive in theaters in summer 2015.
The deal also helps answer the question of how Disney plans to mine second- and third-tier characters from the Marvel library.
Disney is scheduled to report fourth quarter earnings Thursday afternoon.