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'Iron Fist' to debut in March: Is Marvel's Netflix strategy working?

The release date for Marvel's fourth and final (for now) Netflix series has been announced. As the initial plan nears its end, how are the Marvel Netflix series being received by critics and audiences?

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    'Iron Fist' stars Finn Jones.
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A release date has been set for Netflix’s upcoming Marvel TV show “Iron Fist,” the last in the streaming service’s planned quartet of superhero shows. 

Superhero Iron Fist and his mild-mannered alter ego Danny Rand will start their Netflix run on March 17. The series stars Finn Jones – best known to audiences as Loras Tyrell on “Game of Thrones” – as the protagonist. 

Netflix made its first foray into the world of Marvel with the 2015 series “Daredevil,” which came out in the spring of that year, then followed with “Jessica Jones” in late 2015. “Luke Cage” debuted this past September, followed by "Iron Fist" in the spring.

Marvel's long-term plan is for all four superheroes to team up for a miniseries titled “The Defenders” once the four shows have had a good run. 

As this initial plan nears its end, how have Netflix and Marvel done so far with these shows? 

Netflix reveals little information about their viewership numbers, such as whether one program is more popular than another. But some companies have done research about the service’s viewership. (Netflix usually doesn’t confirm or deny the numbers; this past summer, when asked about the findings by Nielsen and Symphony Media, respectively, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos mentioned that the two had found different viewership numbers for the Netflix show “Orange Is the New Black,” then said, “Either number, if true, would be great for Netflix.”) 

“Luke Cage,” the latest release, still has few numbers available, though Netflix servers were nearly overwhelmed following its release, experiencing problems that Deadline writers Ross A. Lincoln and Dominic Patten “laid at the feet of the popularity of ‘Marvel’s Luke Cage’ this weekend.” 

As for other Marvel shows on the service, Symphony Media reported earlier this year that the second season of “Daredevil” drew more than 13 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 in its first 35 days on Netflix, putting the program behind Netflix shows such as “Fuller House,” “Orange Is the New Black,” and “Stranger Things” in the same demographic. According to Symphony Media, “Jessica Jones” drew more than 6 million viewers ages 18-49 in its first 35 days, well behind “Daredevil” but ahead of programs such as “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “House of Cards.” 

But while “Jessica” may have lagged behind “Daredevil” in ratings, the show's first season has been the most critically well-received of any of the Marvel programs, according to review aggregator website Metacritic. (“Daredevil” is the only one to have released two seasons so far.) 

The Netflix superhero programming doesn’t seem to be wearing out its welcome, if anticipation for “Iron Fist” is any indication: Lizzie Plaugic of The Verge called “Fist” “highly anticipated” and TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington wrote of “Fist,” “If you, like me, are nearing the end of your 'Luke Cage' binge and feeling the imminent absence of new Marvel Netflix content, take heart: Danny Rand will be making his streaming service debut … All of Marvel’s Netflix programming so far have been great (‘Jessica Jones’ is still the highlight for me), so there’s good reason to have high hopes for ‘Iron Fist,’ and for ‘The Defenders,’ too.”

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