March 25th 2016 will be the most superheroic weekend in world history, as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice* opens in theaters while Daredevil season 2 debuts on Netflix. It's a strong move for Netflix to program their smash hit show opposite 2016's first blockbuster, but I also think it's a smart one.
These two things are not actually in financial competition. People will take a break from streaming Daredevil to hit the theater and see Batman v Superman. They'll spend the whole weekend watching the Man Without Fear as he fights Punisher and Elektra. Binge watching doesn't replace traditional media consumption, it's a supplement to it. People still watch other shows, see other movies, watch sports events. BvS's grosses won't be effected.
But they are in cultural competition, and here's where Netflix is smart. By debuting against BvS Netflix has entered itself into a larger national cultural conversation. This only works because these are both superhero properties - if Netflix debuted Orange is the New Black against BvS it wouldn't have the same impact. But this debut date is Netflix saying 'We are as important, as big and as vital to the culture as any giant blockbuster, and we will step to them in our own way.'
This is where Netflix will win, hands down. Unless Daredevil season 2 is a total dog (and since people loved the middling first season we have a really low bar here), it will be seen as more narratively successful than BvS. Part of it is because we live in the 'Golden Age of TV,' where TV critics need to reflexively talk about how much better TV shows are than films. Part of it is that we currently believe dark, longform serialized storytelling is superior to all other forms of storytelling. Part of it is that Daredevil will have more room to breathe while BvS has to cram a lot of stuff into two and a half hours. Because Daredevil won't have massive CGI battles it will feel like the more 'serious' of the two properties, even though it's about a blind guy fighting ninjas.
So the cultural conversation will be about how much better and more adult Daredevil is than BvS. This is going to be what your Vultures and Atlantics go with. This will be the larger consensus, except among the hardcore Batfans. I'm not saying this will be true, I'm saying this is a vital moment in the 'TV is better than movies' moment. Again, unless Daredevil is unwatchable garbage this will be the reception, all but guaranteed.
Netflix wins. Warner Bros will make a whole lot of money and they will launch their new DC Movieverse and everybody will be happy, but Netflix is going to stand tall in the cultural landscape. They're going to ride BvS' coattails - can't you already taste all the thinkpieces coming down the pike that let people know Daredevil is being released the same day as BvS, a movie that will have tens of millions of dollars dedicated to telling people what day it opens? - and they'll end up dominating the conversation. It's David and Goliath, smart versus blockbuster, Marvel vs DC, TV versus movies.
Well played, Netflix.
* The actual title until they change it to Batman: My Costume Is Not As Bad As Daredevil's