Ever since the launch of Disney+ back in 2019, the House of Mouse's streaming service has been making waves in the world of entertainment beginning with Lucasfilm's The Mandalorian and now Marvel Studios' Loki.
While The Mandalorian launched a pop culture phenomenon with Mando and Baby Yoda, Loki's premiere topped that of both WandaVision and The Falcon and Winter Soldier resulting in Disney+ moving their original release plan from Fridays to Wednesdays.
But despite the MCU's positive reception on Disney+, streaming is still a new frontier leading Marvel Studios to rely on social media feedback as opposed to numbers.
MARVEL LOOKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE ABSENCE OF STATS
At a PaleyFest discussion via Deadline, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said that when it comes to "success in the streaming world, [he's] still learning and figuring out. It’s a whole new world."
Even though fans are currently enjoying the third MCU Disney+ series, until this year Marvel's success has always been determined by the box office. While it's true that episodic television series have existed for decades, the same methods of evaluation simply don't exist yet as streaming is still in its infancy.
Feige admitted this himself saying, "As far as I know there aren’t really any Nielsen ratings (for streaming). I haven’t been given any Nielsen ratings for a streaming series.”
Currently, SambaTV shares viewership stats for U.S. households that tune in for a minimum of five minutes. But their numbers don't include mobile viewers. The streaming services themselves like Disney+, Netflix, and HBO Max do collect numbers, but they're not obligated to share them.
This lack of transparency has been a source of criticism since it's almost impossible to compare how a series on a platform performs against another. This not only leaves audiences in the dark but also some of the project's creators.
According to Feige,
“All the different streaming services have access to their own information, but don’t share it so easily to the public or across services. We knew what success meant at the box office, that was very clear. There were numbers to compare it to."
So how does Feige know what works and what doesn't? According to him, "One sign is social discussion of reviews, that's been helpful."
HOW DOES MARVEL STUDIOS MEASURE SUCCESS?
Feige's comment about "social discussion of reviews" is a little unclear. Is he referring to what social media says about shows like WandaVision and Loki? Or is he speaking about the general discussion on whether a series is good or bad?
It's hard to know for sure. But it's clear that Marvel Studios is paying attention to audience feedback, and that's a big deal.
The question, of course, is whether that's actually a good thing. Naturally, many would say no.
After all, several studios, particularly Lucasfilm, have been criticized for listening to the fan community and online feedback. However, the alternative would be what studios had before — making decisions based on a spreadsheet.
While the lack of transparency is understandably frustrating, maybe the insulation is actually working to the advantage of Marvel Studios. Feige has actually said that he doesn't "spend a lot of time thinking about numbers" and that the studio has "never embarked on a project because research and analysis said we should."
To date, the studio has broken all other industry rules and expectations, and it's worked. Why not this one too?