It’s a tight race between Marvel and DC - Can other superhero content break through the franchise duopoly?

4 October, 2022

The superhero genre has been a goldmine for some of the most valuable content in recent years, but most of the attention for these series has been concentrated between the two major players - Marvel and DC.   With such deep content reserves and well developed universes to draw from it is perhaps not surprising that these two behemoths dominate the genre.  In September, 83.5% of demand for all superhero shows in the US was for a series based on content from either DC or Marvel.


While Marvel has been making gains with the steady release of new breakout hits on Disney+, DC still has the lead in terms of total demand for its content.  44.8% of US demand for superhero series in September was for a DC show. The most in-demand DC content originates from both linear channels (eg. The Flash) and streaming platforms (eg. Titans).  Contrast this with Marvel, where the bulk of the brand’s most in-demand series are new shows from Disney+. The most in-demand Marvel series for the month was She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, underscoring how recent releases are helping to lift Marvel’s demand compared to DC.  

Marvel and DC have some structural advantages that help them dominate the superhero genre.  Both benefit from complex universes of interwoven storylines they can draw on to produce a steady stream of new content.  Having reached a critical mass they can each count on a dedicated fan base to justify further franchise extensions.  And, strategically building in connections throughout their content universe allows them to funnel their existing fanbase to new shows in the franchise.  Faced with a duopoly of two content juggernauts, how can superhero series not in either franchise catch audience attention?

Looking at the most in-demand superhero series that aren’t in the Marvel or DC universe a clear top tier of shows have managed to break through with audiences without belonging to either major franchise.  In September, four of these series had over 8 times the average series demand, a level that fewer than 3% of shows reach.


Leading the pack is Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys. This show has become one of the most popular series on Amazon and shows no signs of slowing down. Currently on its third season, Amazon has already begun building out the franchise with a series of animated shorts (The Boys Presents: Diabolical) and a planned spinoff (Gen V). The Boys Presents: Diabolical actually ranked fifth on the list, making The Boys franchise the only one with multiple shows in the top ten.

Two other Amazon Prime Video originals, Invincible and The Tick, were also among the ten most in-demand non-Marvel/DC superhero shows for the month. This means that four of the top ten superhero series outside of the major franchises were Amazon originals. Amazon seems to be positioning itself as a platform where superhero content outside of the two major franchises can thrive.

The remaining six superhero series all had between 2 - 4 times the average series demand. Three of these series (Harvey Birdman: Attorney at LawMisfits, and Heroes) are showing surprising longevity with demand holding up long after their finales.  Adult Swim appears to have recognized the potential of the “Harvey Birdman” franchise, having released a spinoff, Birdgirl which had its second season this year.

Falling just short of top 10 was Netflix’s Jupiter’s Legacy with 2.57x the average series demand.  This show was a notorious flop for Netflix and was quickly cancelled after its premiere.  While the original plan had been for this to be the first show in the Millarworld universe of adaptations, it instead has become a cautionary tale of how hard it can be to break into the superhero genre outside of the two main franchises.

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