One of the highlights of Marvel Studios‘ 2021 Hawkeye series is the introduction of Echo, aka Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), who was confirmed shortly afterward to be getting a Disney+ show of her own. This week, after 18 months of guesstimates and timeline adjustments, Echo season 1 has received a concrete release date of November 29, 2023. What is even more noteworthy than when the series will drop, however, is how.
At this week’s Disney Upfront, Kevin Feige revealed that all episodes of Echo season 1 will hit Disney+ on release day. This announcement comes as a surprise to fans, who are accustomed to the weekly episodic drop model Marvel and Disney have employed for their streaming content the past few years. In addition to Disney+, the majority of the major streaming platforms (such as Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV+ and HBO Max) have relied on weekly drops as well. Netflix, of course, represents the biggest opposition to this model, as it embraces and defends the binge-watch strategy in a letter to its shareholders.
Is Echo season 1 an experiment for Marvel Studios?
This is what many have been wondering in the immediate aftermath of Feige’s declaration. Reception for Marvel Studios’ streaming content has been fairly mixed, so the choice to give fans another manner in which they can consume said content will likely provide decision makers a basis for comparison. Will engagement with Echo season 1 spike compared to recent releases like Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel or She-Hulk? And if so, is that because fans are more excited to finish the program in a few hours than they are to devote an hour to it each week? Or will it be because Echo is just better received by audiences in general?
It’s also worth noting that Disney+ has experimented slightly with simultaneous release with some of its Star Wars programming. 2022’s Obi-Wan Kenobi debuted with a pair of episodes, while the first three episodes of Andor released as part of its premiere. It’s worth wondering if Disney noticed higher engagement with multi-episode drops for these series and sought to find out if a Marvel series can render similar results.
Another key factor is series length, as we do not yet know how many episodes Echo season 1 will contain. Could it be shorter than its counterparts? Perhaps it’s only four episodes, as opposed to the 6-8 episode range we typically see from Marvel? A weekly release of only four episodes could cause Echo season 1 to be out of sight and out of mind fairly quickly to fans, whereas binge-watching something that short could generate days worth of online chatter, possibly even a week or so. This is a key variable to consider, for sure.
What else could be behind the Echo season 1 simultaneous drop?
The notion that this could be an experiment to see if Disney+ can find success with the Netflix model is certainly a valid one. However, it still begs the question: why was Echo season 1 chosen for said experiment? After all, Marvel does have both Secret Invasion dropping in June and Loki season 2 coming in October. Why were neither of these series chosen for said experiment? Loki would be an ideal test subject in theory, as Disney could compare season 1’s episodic release model to a season 2 binge release and see which of the two generates higher viewership and/or engagement.
Another factor could be the perceived level of popularity for the titular character compared to the characters confirmed to appear in Echo season 1. Marvel Studios very well may have noticed the week-to-week anticipation online from fans as to when Daredevil (Charlie Cox) would finally appear in She-Hulk (along with the subsequent complaints and groans when they realized that they’d have to wait another week). Given that both Daredevil and Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) will indeed appear in Echo, it’s worth wondering if Marvel is looking to bypass potential negative online reaction by opting for a simultaneous release.
It would be quite disappointing if this were the case, as Echo is a great character in her own right and deserves an opportunity to shine in this series. Plus, audiences are going to get plenty of time to enjoy Daredevil, Kingpin and more of their favorite returning characters in Daredevil: Born Again, so there’s no need to use Echo season 1 as a soft launch for any of them. Echo is a great opportunity for Marvel Studios to continue its initiative to increase representation, so the notion that this series could be used as a vehicle to incorporate more mainstream characters at the expense of Maya Lopez is disappointing to think about.
Final thoughts and takeaways on this decision
At the end of the day, it’s more likely that Marvel Studios and Disney are making this decision purely for business reasons, as opposed to content-related ones. After all, we learned earlier this month that Disney+ has lost 4 million subscribers thus far in 2023. Given this unexpected development, it’s possible that executives feel pressured to tweak their streaming release model to see if results improve. Who knows? Maybe Echo season 1 turns out to be a catalyst for change within Disney. Either way, we’ll find out in November!
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