Marvel Television has 14 current drama series on TV or in pre-production. That puts it in the same league as Hollywood’s major studios, with the same number of scripted hour-long series than Sony Pictures Television has. Marvel serves as lead studio on all but two of its shows, “Legion” and “The Gifted.”
What makes Marvel a TV oddity is not its rapid growth from just two dramas three years ago but rather its polyamorous nature. At a time when vertical integration makes it difficult for a studio to sell to anyone other than its sibling network, Marvel has series at six platforms across broadcast, cable and streaming.
Variety spoke with Jeph Loeb, exec VP and head of television, about the studio’s rise.
How would you describe Marvel’s approach to TV?
While many people from the outside look at us in the studio, we see ourselves as producers who are working to support the vision of our showrunner. But we’re involved in every aspect of the production — whether it’s being in the writers’ room, editing on set, casting — every step of the production goes through the Marvel team to tell the best story that we can.
How have you been able to work with multiple networks outside Disney?
The first episode of “Daredevil” started shooting three years ago. At that time we had “Agents of SHIELD” and “Agent Carter” on ABC, and that was it. Now we’re in some element of pre-, post- or actual production on 14 series that I can talk about. And it just requires that we make sure that there’s always someone from Marvel there to help guide the process.
How important was “Daredevil” in proving you could sell a show on a platform that was not part of Disney-ABC?
It was a critical show for a lot of reasons — not just that we were on a different platform. Oddly enough, Netflix was a very young network at the time. It’s hard to imagine because their growth has been spectacularly high. I remember going in when we first talked to them, and they basically had “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Lilyhammer.” And all we said was, “We think we can do better than ‘Lilyhammer.’” And by the way, big shout-out to all you “Lilyhammer” fans.
Do you think you cleared the “Lilyhammer” bar?
I hope so. We don’t tend to think in terms of how well we’re doing. We tend to think of how our audience is responding to the stories that we’re telling, and at least so far they seem to like what we’re doing.
Now you’re going to have “The Defenders” and “Inhumans” both at Comic-Con.
You never get to say, “We’re going to do something that’s never been done in the history of television” — and we get to do it twice in San Diego. Netflix believed in what we wanted to do, which was to do five series, four of which [“Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” “Iron Fist”] would culminate in the fifth. And we’ve been fortunate enough to see other things happen, like “Daredevil,” season two, and “The Punisher,” which was not part of any plan. The other monumental task that we took on was to try to find a way to expand broadcast television into a world that hasn’t been done before. The first two episodes of “The Inhumans” will premiere on Imax screens throughout the world before they come to ABC. To be able to experience television in a brand-new way and hopefully drive people both to the theater and to the network — that speaks to the power of the Marvel brand and the uniqueness of what it is that we’re trying to do.