TV’s IP Wars – Just getting started?

To paraphrase an old saying, “The more things try to stay the same, the more they change.” Ben Travers of IndieWire.Com makes a powerful and worrisome point.

How Reboots, Spinoffs, and Blockbuster Franchises Could Shape the Future
by Ben Travers

For more than four decades, “Star Wars” has created a dazzling universe filled with iconic characters and stunning imagery — yet each story starts with a simple scroll. The onscreen exposition stretches out into the stars, and for a moment, it feels endless, as though you’ll simply keep reading for two hours rather than embarking on an interstellar adventure.

That’s how it felt last December, when Disney spokespeople made announcement after announcement during a four-hour presentation to investors, many of which focused on the further expansion of George Lucas’ blockbuster film franchise via Disney+. A new season of “The Mandalorian,” the debut Disney+ original series that became an instant sensation in November 2019, was given the go-ahead, along with a spinoff, the long-anticipated “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series, two animated shows, and more, totaling 10 new TV series in a galaxy far, far away.

Joining them was Patty Jenkins’ fighter pilot film “Rogue Squadron,” which notably anoints the “Wonder Woman” director as the first woman to direct a “Star Wars” motion picture. It was also the only “Star Wars” movie announced that day. Needless to say, the future of the “Star Wars” universe isn’t on the big screen. It’s on TV.

Today, TV does it all, and when it comes to scripted series, the small screen is seeing an influx of reboots, revivals, and sequels, some of which take the form of big-budget franchises. The streaming wars have created a number of new services, all angling for supremacy, and the easiest way to win is to offer audiences something they already know and want. Whether that’s the next piece of the Marvel (Not-So-)Cinematic Universe or an extension of “The Godfather” trilogy, awareness can be a shortcut to subscribers — or, at least, that’s the predominant thinking, backed up by a Brink’s truck of Hollywood cash.

But with so much being invested in franchises new and old, what does that mean for the future of originality on TV? How will an inundation of intellectual property affect the kind of stories that, not so long ago, produced a (second) Golden Age of acclaimed original programming? Most importantly, will there be room for unknowns to compete in a landscape packed with returning favorites…?

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IndieWire turns 25 this year. To mark the occasion, the site is running a series of essays about the future of everything it covers. This fine article is one of them. Happy Birthday, IndieWire!