The Real Reason Disney Will Spend $200 Million On Just 1 Disney+ Marvel Show

Saying that Marvel movies aren’t cheap is like saying that water is wet. The catering budget on Avengers: Endgame was probably more than the budgets for entire independent movies. The entire cost for Endgame was between $300 and $400 million. 

Granted, that movie was in profit by week two or three. But how do you account for profits when you’re making TV shows where ticket sales aren’t a factor? Marvel Studios is going to the small screen with several shows for Disney+.

But can even Marvel make a profit when just one of their shows costs $200 million? And it’s Hawkeye, of all things?

Disney+ logo shown on a smart phone screen
Disney+ | Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The MCU has many expensive shows coming up

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. WandaVision. Loki. What If? Hawkeye. Just one of these shows would represent a major investment for any company, and Disney/Marvel has five of them coming between 2020 and 2021 to Disney+

And that’s not even all of them. Marvel has announced at least three other shows are in the works: She Hulk, Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel. There’s no doubt the company can afford it, given the billions the company has made, but is this sustainable? 

Disney certainly seems to think it’s possible, because the company is betting the farm on Disney+. CEO Bob Iger calls it the single most important venture the entire company has embarked on in some time. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the company has invested $2.6 billion solely for the technology to make Disney+ reach millions of homes.

The streaming service is a large part of the reason Disney purchased its competitor 20th Century Fox. We’re already starting to see the fruits of that, since the 1947 Fox holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street, will be on Disney Plus. 

‘Hawkeye’ costs that much?

Still, many an eyelid batted when reports came out that Hawkeye by itself was going to cost $200 million. An effects-heavy show like WandaVision might justify the lofty price tag, but Hawkeye, with its emphasis on physical action, doesn’t seem to. 

As Collider put it, “Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision and Hawkeye (cost as)  much as $25 million per episode, totaling $500 million, though how you spend $200 million on Hawkeye alone is anyone’s guess.”

Here’s where things get technical. As much as Disney aims to become a new streaming leader, they’re very much following the Netflix playbook in that Disney pays its talent more money upfront to get them on board so that they can then take advantage of lucrative backend deals.

A 25-year-old show like Seinfeld still rakes in the bucks because of the deals they make to keep airing in perpetuity. A certain company just spent $500 million to acquire Seinfeld, and that company is Netflix. 

Disney+ won’t stay cheap forever

Many people expressed surprise at Disney’s $6.99  price point. And considering the treasure trove of movies the company has going back more than 80 years, that’s a great deal no matter how you crunch your numbers. 

Surely that price can’t stick that way for long, which is why a number of people have signed long-term contracts to lock in that low price for a few years. While Netflix remains the streaming leader, a great hue and cry always erupts when their prices go up, even though $12.99 for all they offer isn’t a bad deal either. 

The same thing is bound to happen when Disney goes from $6.99 to, say, $10.99 a month. 

We may soon be entering a wonderland of streaming content with Disney+ by itself, but even though Disney is starting as a large fish, a lot more fish are going to be joining the pond, including HBO Max and Universal’s Peacock.

And even more are surely on the way. Somebody has to pay for all that programming. And it won’t all be the providers.