It appears that the factors that led to the success of Marvel’s The Avengers didn’t quite work out for Netflix’s The Defenders, as the series was watched fewer times than any of the series that have launched since Daredevil.
Variety has reported that the key issue with the crossover’s viewership seems to be tied to a front-loaded opening. Daredevil Season 2 was a huge hit for Netflix that greatly outdid the already-successful Season 1 of the show – so much so, that they decided to add a Punisher spin-off to their slate of shows after the character’s acclaimed supporting role in that series. The Defenders, which was marketed as an event series, received 17% of 30-day viewership that Daredevil Season 2 did. 30-day viewership, in this case, is referring to days in which Netflix viewers watched one or more episode. From the sound of things, a lot of viewers binge-watched the entire series when it came out, and most of those fans were the Marvel faithful as opposed to those who saw the show as Daredevil Season 2.5 and Season 1.5 for Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. The novelty of having the heroes together – the factor that brought The Avengers an unprecedented degree of success – did not translate to television, oddly enough.
In spite of that bit of bad news, the bright side is that it isn’t all too different to how the first seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist performed in their first seasons – respectfully, those were in Daredevil Season 2’s shadow as well with 30-day viewerships that were respectively 26%, 27%, and 28% of what the sophomore season of Netflix’s crown jewel to their Marvel lineup reached. All three of those shows have been renewed for second seasons while Daredevil will have a third. What’s worth noting is that Netflix also looks beyond a standard 30-day window when it comes to their programming, so it’s likely that any boosts of viewership that will come as a result of fans tuning in to The Defenders to get themselves ready for the next seasons of the other show will play into Netflix’s assessment of whether or not they want to do another season of the show.
This does not make The Defenders a failure in any sense, since the Marvel shows are among the most heavily-viewed of any of Netflix’s original shows – even a disappointing viewership for the series would still translate to good numbers for the studio with that in mind. Also worth noting is that the drop in viewership could be related to the series having eight episodes instead of the usual thirteen, meaning that audiences would likely burn through the series at a faster rate. So even with weaker viewership, The Defenders is still a hit – albeit one that’s probably less successful than the studio would have liked. Crossovers will continue to happen in the greater Defenders setting, as is the nature of Marvel’s comics and their adaptations, but a continuation of this series may not be a given.
The Defenders is available to stream as a part of Netflix’s original programming. The show features an ensemble cast that includes Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock (Daredevil), Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Mike Colter as Luke Cage, Finn Jones as Danny Rand (Iron Fist), Élodie Yung as Elektra Natchios, Eka Darville as Malcolm Ducasse, Simone Missick as Misty Knight, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, Elden Henson as “Foggy” Nelson, Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeri Hogarth, Scott Glenn as Stick, Rachael Taylor as Pasty Walker, Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, Wai Ching Ho as Madame Gao, and Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra Reid.