In 2008, Marvel Studios launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and soon became a pioneering force to be reckoned with. The television side only really launched in 2013, with the still-ongoing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. It’s been slow going for Marvel Television since then, with many pitches — such as Damage Control — seeming to be stuck in limbo, and even canceled or passed up on.

This year promises to be different, though. Fresh from two years of success with , Marvel Television has entered into a wide range of deals with other networks. As a result, this looks set to be the busiest year yet for Marvel!

To Release This Year

The success of has emboldened the company. Where previous years saw the release of two Marvel Netflix shows a year, this time round we’re set for three. released in March, and is due out in August. It’s a team-up series that will unite their Netflix heroes against sci-fi sensation Sigourney Weaver as a mysterious villain. What’s more, Marvel is also currently filming a spin-off Netflix series, starring John Bernthal’s popular iteration of the character. This is important for two reasons; firstly, because it shows an increasingly confident relationship between Marvel and Netflix, and secondly, because it’s smart planning — the cast of The Punisher won’t overlap too significantly with The Defenders, making it easy for both shows to film at the same time.

Over on ABC, is going from strength to strength. A corporate shakeup at ABC last year led to some problems for Marvel properties, with the network passing on Marvel’s Most Wanted and canceling Agent Carter. Evidently inspired by the success of Marvel Netflix, ABC arranged for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to move to a later timeslot, allowing the series to take on a darker hue. Although viewing figures have dropped, the show is performing well for the later timeslot, and ABC President Channing Dungey has said she’s “bullish” about a fifth season. So we can reasonably Marvel to launch Season 5 in Fall 2017.

She's a superhero now! [Credit: ABC]

She’s a superhero now! [Credit: ABC]

Perhaps the most innovative series to date, though, is — a surprising series that will air in September 2017. The series is a partnership between Marvel, ABC, and IMAX; it’s being filmed at Hawaii with IMAX technology, with the first two episodes to air at IMAX cinemas. This is a bold new approach for both Marvel and IMAX, and if it works out we may see more of these partnerships in the future.

Also In Progress

Cloak and Dagger. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
Cloak and Dagger. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

But Marvel Television is also planning ahead. On February 13th, filming will start on both Freeform’s Cloak and Dagger and Hulu’s , two shows that have been in limbo for years. We’re only in the early days for both series — we recently got confirmation on who’ll be playing Cloak and Dagger, and haven’t yet had any casting information on Runaways; still, with filming about to begin, we can expect news soon.

Here’s the interesting thing, though; neither of those series are expected to air in 2017. In fact, insiders have routinely discussed mid-to-late 2018 release dates. So why is Marvel starting filming in February 2017? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we don’t see both Cloak and Dagger and Runaways release a lot sooner than is popularly expected.

Meanwhile, with shooting finished on The Defenders the Marvel Netflix team is also moving on. Production has started on Jessica Jones Season 2, while Charlie Cox told Boogaloo Radio (seriously) that he starts filming on Daredevil Season 3 later this year.

“I do that later in the year. We’ll go back and do that.”

The Fox Productions

Meanwhile, Marvel’s leadership is coordinating with Fox on two TV shows. The relationship between Marvel and Fox has often been somewhat strained, but somehow figures in Fox Television and Marvel Entertainment have reached some pretty cool agreements. We’ll be seeing launch on February 8th, promising to be one of the most creative superhero TV shows of all time, while Matt Nix is working on another intriguing show that actually ties into the X-Men movies!

Marvel Entertainment’s involvement in this will be limited, but these new X-Men series will undoubtedly add another layer of pressure to their leadership.

Smart Strategies

Marvel's Runaways! [Credit: Marvel Comics]
Marvel’s Runaways! [Credit: Marvel Comics]

This is definitely going to be a very busy year for Marvel Television, but the company is playing it smart. Firstly, you’ll notice that Marvel is partnering with a wide range of networks; ABC, Netflix, Hulu, and Freeform are all on board for MCU shows. Marvel has clearly capitalized on the success of their Netflix series, which will have left other networks much more confident about a Marvel pitch. This is important because no network will be willing to sign a blank cheque for superhero shows; I suspect one reason for Marvel’s relatively slow TV expansion is that ABC was historically unwilling to increase their exposure.

In addition, though, different networks mean different creative teams and casts. That’s a major bonus, because it means there won’t be conflict between show schedules. As I pointed out earlier, it’s surely no coincidence that The Punisher is being filmed at the same time as The Defenders; while there will be some limited overlap, it will be fairly easy to manage. Neither Cloak and Dagger nor Runaways are likely to tie into, say, Iron Fist or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. anytime soon, which is precisely what allows Marvel to work on so many projects at the same time.

The Challenges

Agent Coulson. [Credit: ABC]
Agent Coulson. [Credit: ABC]

In truth, 2017 is going to be the year when Marvel Television proves itself. If these smart strategies play out, then we’ll be seeing a constant flow of Marvel shows on multiple networks. Success will mean even more networks get in on the act in 2018, with the small-screen MCU flourishing. Naturally, not every series is going to work, but that shouldn’t set Marvel back too badly; the real test will be organizational. If Marvel’s leadership can remain focused on such a wide range of series, then overall performance should be strong. If they stumble, giving preference to one show to the detriment of another, then it could damage confidence in the entire range. Personally, I’m optimistic.

That said, there is one show that has the potential to be ground-breaking; The Inhumans. The franchise has never been particularly popular; over in the comics, fans are often resentful of the increasing focus on the alien race, which has frequently been to the detriment of the X-Men. Still, Marvel has bet the house on this series, even using it to innovate a revolutionary new partnership with IMAX. If Inhumans performs well, then it’s likely we’ll see IMAX launch a new expansion phase — probably with more Marvel partnerships, too.