WandaVision heralds the franchise-dominated way forward for streaming
A month before Disney + officially unveiled, a message came out for Marvel fans: get ready to pay if you want to understand what's going on in future films.
That edict, passed by Marvel creative director Kevin Feige in an oft-quoted Bloomberg interview, is finally being realized.
WandaVision, an exploration of the relationship between Wanda Maximoff (played by Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) through the lens of classic sitcoms, arrives on Disney + today. It marks the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first step on television and the first of many company-wide efforts to establish Disney + as a must-have for fans.
Due to delays in Covid-19, it's the first new live-action Marvel offering since 2019, Spider-Man: Far From Home. WandaVision's rollout also features some of the original content for Marvel fans to gobble up and offers a glimpse into the new reality of streaming. Streamers want to develop their most valuable stories and characters to battle their competition and get fans to invest.
"If I know there will be another release in a series that is either related or directly related to a franchise that I'm very interested in, I will be less likely to cancel that service," said the assistant Chairman and US technology, media and telecommunications company leader at Deloitte Kevin Westcott said. "I see it as a churn prevention technique."
At Disney, this technique shows up when examining the original plans for the first half of the year. Two more Marvel original series are preparing for their release in the coming months: The Falcon and Winter Solider are expected to be released on March 19, and Loki is slated for a debut in May. These series give Marvel fans a reason to stay in the first half of the year.
And it doesn't stop there. On an investor's day in December, newly appointed media and entertainment chairman Kareem Daniel said the company plans to bring out an amazing 10 Star Wars and 10 Marvel series over the next several years. The Mandalorian season two finale came with a teaser for another spin-off series called The Book of Boba Fett, which is slated to premiere in late 2021.
"We have the ability to explore these stories with just these characters and actors. When those stories are over and these seasons are over, they can migrate back to the big screen and then back to Disney +," the previous content curation and programming director said Ricky Strauss before Disney's debut.
Disney's strategy is already paying off. The service has more than 86 million subscribers, an astonishing number for a service that is just over a year old. The first price hike is already planned for early this year, just as these new shows are coming out. No wonder other entertainment giants are trying to replicate this franchise success.
One of these companies is WarnerMedia, which is already trying to get DC Comics characters more central to the streamer's content strategy.
The company recently discontinued its standalone streaming service DC Universe and switched original series like Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn to the growing HBO Max. It released Wonder Woman in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously last month last month. Behind the scenes, it tries to prop up the broader DC Universe so that it is cohesive across all screens.
"Since joining in August 2019, we've held weekly meetings at our major franchises where we've talked about how we can work together and how we can do the whole thing more than the parts, how we have this amazing character and these Bringing stories to life in a new life and in other ways, "said Ann Sarnoff, chairman and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks, at CES 2021 this week." Now everything is connected and we're creating a DC Universe plan which is much more centrally connected, but carried out individually. "