Fans are very excited about the prospect of Disney purchasing most of 21st Century Fox. Getting the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a dream come true. The impact of a Disney and Fox deal goes well beyond that, however, with many ramifications that have nothing to do with which superheroes can team up with which other superheroes. Even within the Marvel sphere, there is more to consider than what happens on the big screen, especially that street-level corner of the MCU on Netflix.
In addition to Fox’s movie studio, one of the assets Disney could potentially buy is Fox’s stake in Hulu. That would give Disney, which already owns a portion of the streaming service, a majority stake. According to Deadline, Disney could end up owning all of Hulu if Comcast then divests its share. Whether Disney is the majority or sole owner of Hulu, it will no longer be in the company’s best interest to produce shows for Netflix, Hulu’s leading competitor in over-the-top streaming.
Disney has already announced that all of its films will leave Netflix at the end of 2018. That has nothing to do with the Fox deal, but rather Disney’s own streaming service that will launch in 2019. That means no Marvel Studios movies on Netflix after next year. The television shows are a separate deal, but a Disney-owned Hulu would likely mean the end of Marvel Television’s current relationship with Netflix.
It is unlikely that Disney will be able to move the shows that have already been made with Netflix over to Hulu, so you will still be able to find Daredevil and other Defenders series on the service. What is likely, however, is Disney-owned Marvel Television declining to make any new deals with Netflix for new series. The Punisher may already be the last spinoff from the original Marvel/Netflix pact.
Disney could also decline the opportunity to make any additional seasons of already established series like Luke Cage or Jessica Jones once all current contracts are fulfilled. Disney will not break any contracts with Netflix, but they also don’t have to allow Marvel Television to enter into any new ones.
This might make Disney sound like a bigger enemy to The Defenders than The Hand, but that really isn’t the case. As more companies offer their own over-the-top streaming services, consumers are going to have to make hard choices as to which ones will get their money each month. For some, access to Marvel programming may be a deciding factor and with that in mind, it would not make sense for Disney to provide consumers with a reason to choose Netflix when Disney could use that same Marvel incentive to convince customers to subscribe to the Disney service and/or Hulu instead.
Marvel Television is already working with Hulu. The two companies launched the Runaways series late last month and the former Marvel/ABC series Agent Carter also arrived on Hulu recently. As Disney’s vested interest in Hulu potentially grows, it will only be common business sense to expand Hulu’s partnership with Marvel Television in favor of new contractual agreements with a rival streaming service like Netflix.
Fans have wondered why there has been no announcement regarding a “Phase 2” of Marvel on Netflix. There have been rumors of series based on Blade, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, and others, but no announcements. The only additions to the original Marvel and Netflix deal have been the first season of The Punisher and additional seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.
While Disney’s potential purchase of Fox has only been reported for the past month, it’s possible, maybe even likely that Disney has at least viewed this deal as a possibility for much longer and avoided additional long-term agreements with Netflix as a result. There may never be a true “Phase 2” of Marvel on Netflix, but we could see some of those same rumored series on Hulu, which does offer shows that are rated “Mature.” The same goes for FX, the home of TV-MA Marvel series Legion, which Disney is also picking up in the Fox deal.
Netflix may have even seen this coming. Perhaps the belief that the company’s dealings with Marvel might come to an end was a motivational factor in the deal Netflix recently made for superhero content based on properties created by Mark Millar.
No one outside the walls of Disney and Fox knows how this going to play out. The same could be said for most of the people inside those walls as well. We can, however, use basic business logic to surmise that Marvel Television will likely have a larger presence on Hulu than Netflix in the foreseeable future, should Disney’s potential purchase of Fox come to fruition.