Do Poor Ratings Spell Doom for Comic Book Television?

Sad Supergirl

The first batch of ratings for this Fall’s comic book shows is here and it’s not looking good. The shows include Fear the Walking Dead, The Flash, Inhumans, and Supergirl. If their ratings are a sign, we might be witnessing the first stages of the end of the TV Superhero genre.

Each of these shows this season has posted lower ratings than they’ve seen in past seasons. Or they failed to meet expectations, as seen with Marvel’s Inhumans.

It could be that television is over saturated with shows from the genre. For example, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  has been on a downward decline for four seasons. It Started with a viewership of 17 million and 4.7 rating. Now by the end of season four, the show’s viewership is but a fraction of what it once was with 4.07 million viewers and a rating of .7.

Ghost Rider

With such a huge drop it’s a wonder how the show is able to stay profitable and on the air. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s  fifth season is being held back while ABC promotes Inhumans. Inhumans will be filling in the Friday night slot.

Inhumans didn’t do well in Imax theaters, so much so that it’s likely that it will be a long time before Imax will partner with another television premiere. Inhumans saw it’s debut with an audience of 3.75 million viewers. That gives it a score of .9 in ratings. When you include streaming and DVR numbers we might see it go as high as five million viewers, which is still a disappointing figure.

Supergirl Struggles

Marvel isn’t the only one feeling the hurt. DC’s television universe on The CW which includes shows like Arrow, Supergirl, and The Flash is also seeing lower numbers. Supergirl debuted on CBS back in 2015 with over 16 million turning in to watch. The show saw an abrupt drop from its Season 1 premiere on CBS when it moved to The CW for Season 2. Supergirl only saw 4.08 million for its Season 2 premiere. That’s a loss of almost two-thirds of its viewers from one season to another. With Supergirl’s Season 3 premiere, it appears the downward trend will continue. TVLine reports the Season 3 premiere had 1.86 million total viewers and a .5 rating. That’s down from its Season 2 average of 2.4 million viewers with a .7 rating.


LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 30: “Childish Things” — Kara (Melissa Benoist, pictured) does her best to support Winn when his father, the supervillain Toyman, breaks out of prison and seeks out his son for unknown reasons, on SUPERGIRL, Monday, Jan. 18 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)

Supergirl isn’t the only show experiencing issues. Both Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash came in with lower ratings compared to previous seasons. Though the CW shows never got ratings as high as Fear The Walking Dead or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It does point to a problem they are all expecting.

Fans might finally just be tired of superhero dramas. Netflix’s The Defenders numbers weren’t as high as expected either. What that’s telling me is in the world of television at least, there’s just too many superhero shows. Maybe Marvel and DC have over saturated the market. It’s not an uncommon practice, just think back to all the hospital dramas of the mid-90s to mid-00s or all the CSI clones albeit NCIS seems to still be chugging along.

Is the Sky Falling

Am I claiming the “Sky is Falling” for our comic heroes? I won’t play the part of chicken little just yet. But at the very least this is a market adjustment. Something, that TV heads need to pay attention too. Fans have time and time again demanded quality over quantity.

Just compare the hype between Inhumans and Netflix’s The Punisher. On one hand, you have a show that was only put together because the movie project fizzled out and the studio stilled wanted to cash in on the property.


On the other hand, with The Punisher, it spun out of Daredevil Season 2. Jon Bernthal’s Punisher performance was one of the best parts of that season. In fact, the first four episodes showcasing the Punisher story arc might have been some of the best comic book television, I’ve ever watched. They took something successful and are attempting to make it even better.

Just like anything, this is a simple case of economics. When you have a larger amount of product compared to demand, value goes down. When the product is subpar then those in the market react accordingly. I believe that is what we’re seeing with the comic book hero genre on TV.

The fat lady isn’t singing yet, but she’s warming up unless some changes are made. Do you have your own theory on the across the board rating decline in comic book television ratings? Let us know in the comments below!

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