Disney’s long been the gold standard for omnichannel marketing, with enough entry points across TV, film, theme parks, radio and physical stores to hook any and all fans in wherever they may be. There are others that have success in this regard, sure (Pokemon comes to mind). But if you’re looking at the example that covers all bases, it’s Disney, unequivocally.
That reach has only grown over the course of the last decade, with Marvel and Star Wars included, plus the purchase of 21st Century Fox properties and a move to take over a controlling stake in Hulu. Add in the upcoming Disney+ launch and the House of Mouse embeds itself even deeper into the fabric of entertainment culture that it’s been key in building over the years.
Unsurprisingly, the aforementioned Star Wars and Marvel brands are following the lead of their parent company, and also appear to be specifically looking toward TV to lead the way forward as both franchises embark on “resets” so to speak.
On the Star Wars side, the “Skywalker saga” — which began in 1977 — will wrap up this December. For Marvel, “Phase Three” concluded a 23-movie arc beginning with Iron Man in 2008 and ending with Spider-Man: Far From Home in 2019. What’s next for both will take cues from the past, using TV to drive continued interest in the franchises and their various holdings across movies, theme parks, trading cards, comic books and toy lines.
Central to this idea is likely going to be Kevin Feige, long-time Marvel Studios head and now Marvel Chief Creative Officer, as reported by Deadline this week. Feige has been in charge of Marvel Studios since 2007 and is one of the main architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, as many of the original characters are either departing or being replaced, he’s being tasked with pulling Disney+ shows into “Phase Four” — something that already makes for a franchise of unprecedented reach. And that’s before you factor in how Feige’s new role will now expand that idea even further.
As CCO of Marvel, Feige now has the ability to link cinematic and TV storylines to what we’re seeing in the previously un-related (storyline-wise) animated shows and comic books. Marvel TV’s cohesiveness with the rest of the MCU also doesn’t have to stay limited to Disney+ with Feige now controlling whatever happens on Hulu, ABC, Freeform, FX and FXX as well.
Previous iterations of Marvel TV properties have had mixed results in part because they only shared the Marvel name, but not the ideas and most of the characters that made the films so popular. By potentially linking all of these entities thematically, there’s a DIRECT entrypoint into the MCU from TV, whether streaming or linear (not just a cursory one). Feige controlling all of these aspects of Marvel up-levels the brand’s omnichannel efforts by making everything look and feel the same for the first time in its history.
Feige hasn’t taken over Lucasfilm in the same capacity, though he is going to be developing a new Star Wars movie. And one would have to think his involvement there will at least take some cues from how he’s built out the ever-expanding Marvel universe. Star Wars has the history, but maybe not the depth of characters anymore given how the three most recent movies laid waste to the expanded universe that was previously considered canon. How Star Wars looks on TV will at least help overcome those issues in the short-term and keep audiences wanting more while the next phase of films — whatever it may look like — gets going (and inevitably takes cues from what’s airing on the smaller screen).
Could Star Wars also opt for something like Marvel that ties TV shows into what eventually happens in the films? It may be more of a stretch there, as the series is far more beholden to nostalgia. However, TV could instead act as the entryway to the entirety of the Star Wars universe and the motivator to buy trading cards, comics, toys, visit Disney theme parks and ultimately, watch movies and other Star Wars shows whether directly related or not.
That seems counter to what Marvel’s doing (and sounds a lot like what didn’t work in the previous iteration of Marvel’s TV arm). Still, with a different fan base and a different movie release cadence, it may do Star Wars just as well. As long as the TV product remains appealing, the (still growing) fan base will continue to have something to grab onto.