With Spider-Man: Far From Home blowing away its already inflated expectations at the box office, Marvel is continuing its unbelievable streak in theaters.
On network television and streaming services, though, the performance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been much spottier. In fact, considering that Endgame is creeping towards being the biggest movie of all time, no MCU TV show has shown nearly that kind of breakthrough.
Why? We dug into online engagement for the 11 series and 26 complete seasons of Marvel shows to see what’s flexed its muscles and what the internet wishes it could banish with the snap of a finger.
Some of the MCU shows have been released traditionally, while others were released to binge on, so some of these measurements are a little tricky, But when it comes to presentation, the engagement volume behind Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which is a weekly show) so outpace the others we had to break it out to its own graph above.
And while the show is airing its sixth season right now, and is slated for a seventh, you can see that engagement is nowhere near where it once was. The steady decline from Season 2 to Season 5 is pretty straightforward, and when Season 6 concludes we can only assume this trend will continue. It is probably time for Agents to retire, though you’ll see those numbers are still pretty massive compared to every other MCU TV show out there.
Here we have all the other MCU shows that aired traditionally, or close. Inhumans, for example, had two of its episodes in IMAX theaters for two weeks before it came out on ABC for its entire 8-episode run. But that non-traditional move did not do much, as its terrible reviews (the worst rated MCU show by far, with an 11% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes) led to it being cancelled after one season.
Agent Carter, though, is the big shock with a staggering drop in online chatter by over 75%. It’s the kind of decline that all but dooms a show, and it was indeed cancelled after that second season.
To reiterate, these numbers are for shows that are constantly picking up chatter through their entire seasons, as they aired weekly. What follows are all binge shows, where we looked at the online engagement they garnered for one month after their entire season dropped.
First of all, let’s explain some things. Jessica Jones Season 3 has not been on the air for a month yet (this will be relevant for sentiment as well), so that number should increase. And Daredevil Season 3 had its numbers somewhat inflated due to the passing of the character’s creator, Mr. Stan Lee, a few weeks after it debuted.
And Runaways, after airing weekly for Season 1, had Season 2 dropped in total on Hulu. We can address that one first, as you can see that seems like it was a smart strategic move, as our measuring of a shorter time frame reaped a larger volume of engagement.
But if we look at the Netflix shows alone — which is everything in this chart except for Runaways — there’s at least one insight which connects directly to reviews and that is Iron Fist. The only Netflix show to have received overwhelmingly poor reviews, with a 39% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes, the much maligned show also lagged far behind all others when it came to online engagement, and had even fewer mentions for its second season.
We can also see that even though The Defenders was the culmination of these shows, featuring all of these heroes together, its one season only topped three other shows when it came to web mentions, and Jessica Jones has a sporting chance at beating it once its month of engagement is totaled up.
Finally, the Jessica Jones online engagement is surprisingly somewhat low for a show that was highlighted often for having strong characters and compelling stories. But there is one metric where it eclipses everything else.
When it comes to who is talking about these shows online, you can clearly see that Jessica Jones is the king, or rather queen of female engagement. Topping out with over 60% women in its third season, it nearly matches the percentage of men who were discussing Luke Cage.
The only other show that really competes is Cloak & Dagger, a show that features a male/female romance at the heart of its plot. But going back a little more continues to make sense, as Agent Carter featured a female lead, as you guessed it, Agent Carter, and Runaways has a main cast of six teenagers, four of which are women.
It should also be noted that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is next in female online engagement for all but Season 1, which we have seen before: a show from a genre that is traditionally male-oriented starts out this way and then highlights nuanced, interesting characters or topics that appeal more to women.
Sentiment is where things tend to make some sense and in other ways need to be looked at through the lens of the other metrics.
For example, does the high negative sentiment for Jessica Jones explain its low volume of mentions? If so, then why does Iron Fist have surprisingly high sentiment but a much lower volume? Honestly, how does Iron Fist have such high sentiment period?
Sentiment can be tricky, but when looking at some of these shows, a fan bias can be factored in. For example, both Seasons 2 of Iron Fist and Agent Carter have a higher sentiment than their first seasons. But as we know, the volume of their online engagement took a downturn. Therefore, instead of having a greater negative sentiment, those who would have criticized the shows simply didn’t tune in.
As far as Jessica Jones, some of the negative sentiment connected to Season 3 can be tied to sadness over the cancellation of the entire Netflix MCU, which was announced before the show aired. But when it comes down to it, all of these numbers are fairly solid, especially when it comes to two of the shows that are most popular with women: Cloak & Dagger and Runaways.
In other words, every TV constellation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was able to find some core fanbase that was happy to tune in. But when it comes to broad appeal, and an industry-rattling model on the small screen, Marvel has yet to replicate its success.
But now Disney’s new streaming service is on the horizon, and some new series have already been announced. So considering it has nearly unlimited resources, the entire catalog of Marvel to work with and knowledge of what success can mean for the bottom line, what is Disney’s strategy for brainstorming MCU TV shows? We imagine they’re taking a page from Captain America himself.