Pop Culture

Disney vs. Netflix: Which Superhero TV Show Release Format is Best?

We got a whole week to talk about "wait, is that an alligator?"
We got a whole week to talk about "wait, is that an alligator?" Screencap from Loki
Sometime in 2020 I got very obsessed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and watched all the movies from beginning to end. Now I’ve gotten through WandaVision, Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and Loki, and I can’t wait for What If…?

At the same time, I’ve heard the rumors that Charlie Cox may appear in the upcoming She-Hulk as Matt Murdoch/Daredevil, so I’m trying for the third time to finally consume the entire Netflix Defenderverse so I can prepare. With the multiversal shenanigans of Loki, it’s likely that the whole thing will be declared canon(ish) soon so I might as well.

To be honest, though… I think Disney + does serial format better than Netflix when it comes to releases. Netflix generally dumps an entire season on you at once, whereas Disney + still adheres to a weekly schedule. At first, I found that maddening when WandaVision and The Mandalorian would end on cliffhangers. Now? I think it’s genius.

Every week, I would get excited that there was this new episode on Disney + that I could watch. It felt like a present, something small and wonderful and, most of all, easily digestible. There seems to be a dedicated sense that burning the audience out would be a bad thing.

On top of that is the fact that the Disney + format leads to a lot better discourse. When I finished an episode of Loki, I would immediately head over to ScreenCrush on YouTube to get an expert’s opinion on all the little Easter Eggs and implications I might have missed. That’s a thing you can make time for when you’re just doing a single episode a week. Or, who could forget the week where all fans wanted to talk about was the Lokigator? There was room to really iterate on that discussion because it wasn’t buried in the middle of a 12-hour binge.

Disney + seems designed with breaks in mind. The Netflix shows almost dare you to sit on your couch and not move for four hours, and it honestly kind of ruins it. There is so little time to actually process what you watch because you’re always running to catch-up.

And, there is so much to catch up on. The Defenderverse is thirteen long seasons with episodes running nearly an hour. When I look at how far I am, I don’t think “I have so much more of this!” I think, “dear God, there is so much more of this, and I’ll never get through it!”

It’s a feeling I never got when I started the MCU. Yeah, the entire run will take up a lot of your time (about 70 hours including the shows), but again, the whole thing is designed to avoid burnout. You spend two hours in a period World War II action flick, another two in a space opera, then another two in a heist film, and on and on. The MCU is a buffet that wants you to sample everything.

Netflix is more like a shop that sells nothing but different kinds of chocolate cake. All the cakes are good, but after a while you just want some freakin’ cookies. Sure, you could take breaks and watch something else, but then you’re still looking at (checks math) around 120 hours of superhero “homework” to get through in order to fully enjoy the buffet you’d rather be at.

I’m enjoying the Defenderverse. It’s well acted and conceptually brilliant. That said, it makes me tired in a way the MCU never has. Frustrating as the waits may be sometimes, Disney has mastered the art of not tiring its audience.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner