In the last twenty years there have been five Spider-Man animated series. The solid 1990s Fox animated series is probably part of a reason I'm such a big Spider-Man fan. That was followed by the less successful Spider-Man Unlimited, and the MTV cartoon, both of which lasted one season. The Spectacular Spider-Man was the best of the best, although there were legal issues after Disney bought Marvel, and that was replaced with the less universal Ultimate Spider-Man. I'm not as interested in that one, although I wouldn't be surprised if it's replaced in the next few years.
Regardless of what happens to Sony there will probably be a somewhat steady stream of new Spider-Man films. I don't know if they'll reboot the franchise again at some point, although it wouldn't surprise me. It's also entirely possible that it'll become the James Bond films, as the series will continue the same narrative with new actors playing the recurring cast members.
The success of Ultimate Spider-Man, the comic book series, has been remarkable. The Ultimate Universe is probably the most popular new imprint Marvel has introduced in the last twenty years. However, while Brian Michael Bendis still writes Ultimate Spider-Man, this version of Peter Parker has literally gone to Valhalla, replaced by a newcomer. It's a decision that made sense for a variety of reasons, helping to distinguish the classic universe from the more contained Ultimate universe.
All of this serves to show just how remarkable the continuation of the classic Marvel Universe, as well as the original Spider-Man, has been. We're getting new adventures of the same hero who was introduced in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15. Superman's been relaunched four times. Star Trek just got relaunched. Doctor Who may just be the only other series in any other media in which the same narrative continues after nearly fifty years, although that also includes a fifteen year intermission.
It's a bit odd to praise the continued success of the Spider-Man comics while the current "Dying Wish" storyline in Amazing Spider-Man is a promised as a conclusion to that title, paving the way for a Superior Spider-Man who is not supposed to be Peter Parker. But if there's one thing I'm confident about, it's that Dan Slott has a long term plan for the series, which may involve the main character taking a hiatus. It wouldn't be the first time.
In the Clone Saga, Ben Reilly was supposed to be the new Spider-Man. But fan reaction to that was rather negative, exceeded only by the internal reaction within Marvel's staff, so Peter Parker was back soon enough. A current difference is that Dan Slott presumably has an endgame. It's worth looking at the positives and negatives of the hiatus.
The Superior Spider-Man Hiatus
An obvious problem is the lost revenue when one of Marvel's biggest characters disappears for an extended period of time. The team books in which Spidey currently appears will be less appealing, and writers will have to shelve planned team-up stories. (Negative) However, with Superior Spider-Man replacing the Amazing Spider-Man, this is somewhat mitigated. Writers like Mark Waid and Christopher Yost will also be able to play around with the new Spider-Man, and artists will have the opportunity to work on a subtly different character. (Positive)
Spidey's absence would give other similar characters a chance to shine. The new attention could allow the second stringers to be better-positioned for the future. The new Superior Spider-Man would remain a prominent character even when the original returns. And when Spider-Man comes back, it will be a big deal. (Positive)
Either Marvel's going to have to keep details about the original Spider-Man's return a secret (the new schedule/ direction/ creative team) for a long time, or readers are going to be waiting a while for a project that's probably going to be cooler than anything published at the time. (Negative) This has been mitigated by the new possibilities
There may be pressure to do the deck-cleaning stories before the hiatus. These are time-consuming, get a disproportionate amount of attention and tend to suck. (Negative) On the other hand, this is essentially what we got with Ends of the Earth (which featured the defeat of the Sinister Six), No Turning Back (which featured the defeat of the Lizard) and the Hobgoblin War, which revealed the fate of Roderick Kingsley. There haven't been many complaints about the quality of the stories which tied up the various Brand New Day/ Big Time related loose ends.
There will be a tremendous amount of pressure on the post-hiatus creative team. Moreso than usual. So it'll be more of a disaster if something goes wrong. See JMS's Superman: Grounded, coming in the aftermath of an year-long Superman hiatus. (Negative) If Slott's post-hiatus work sucks, the next guys will have a similar opportunity to wipe the slate clean, without the need for a hiatus. And if his work is good, it's essentially the equivalent of allowing him to work on a different type of series, allowing him to be refreshed creatively when it's time for the inevitable comeback. (Positive)
It gives an opportunity to go in a new direction in terms of scheduling. A head start could make deadlines much more comfortable. A head start means that the creative team is working on material far ahead of everyone else, so it could end up being out of place with the rest of Marvel's product, with the writers and artists less able to respond to new developments. It also restricts the ability to respond to the reactions of the fans. (Negative)
A hiatus elevates the tension in the last Spider-Man stories before the intermission, and it means that the attention to the last Spider-Man story prior to the break won't overshadow the eventual return. Look at the hype for Amazing Spider-Man #698. A hiatus is an effective way to kick off a new schedule. So if you think Amazing Spider-Man functions better as one of three monthly titles or as a monthly with 60 pages of content or as a weekly with occasional intermissions (my ideal schedule), that's one way to kick it off. (Positive)
Dan Slott has joked that he wants to write Spider-Man forever, and that his neighbor's newborn may just be young enough to be his successor. I've enjoyed his run so far, so I'd love to see more. At some point, I'd hope to see more good stories by excellent creators. They're not going to stick around forever, but I'd hope to see each of them replaced by someone as good (for example if Millar/ Bagley leave Amazing Spider Man after an year, I'd love to see the book in the hands of Brubaker/ Finch.) I hope that the writers would consider the impact of their stories on the Spider Man comics 20 years later.
I hope to see continued success for the Spider man books and movies. I'd like to see the books operating under the idea of the illusion of change in order to keep the character fresh for future Spider Man writers, without the need for a Crisis of Infinite Earths type retcon for the Marvel U. And at some point, I'd love to start writing Spider Man stories.
I would want the adventures of Spider Man to continue for decades without a Crisis of Infinite Earths type relaunch for the Marvel U, or Spider Man aging too much (I've expressed my opinion about why marriage/kids would be a bad idea.) I want the adventures of Spider Man to continue in the comics for another fifty years, without a need to relaunch the entire Marvel U.
In 2099, if I'm still alive that'll be great (I'd be 114.) If not, I'd still want future readers to enjoy the adventures of Peter Parker Spider Man, without any relaunch of the Marvel U. Miguel O'Hara could wait another hundred years.