The Business of TV: ‘Captain America 2’ Just Changed Everything for ‘Marvel's Agents of SHIELD’

Beginning with tonight's episode, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" will change "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." for good. Here's what fans and investors need to know.

Apr 8, 2014 at 5:06PM
Warning: This article contains spoilers!

Disney's ABC is using both Captain America and Agents of SHIELD to battle CBS for ratings supremacy.

The events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier will shape the future direction of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Credit: Disney/Marvel.

Are you ready, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans? Because thanks to the record-breaking box office debut of Disney (NYSE:DIS) Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, tonight's new episode should be one to remember.

And no, not like the halfhearted Thor: The Dark World crossover we got back in November, when the episode literally involved the team cleaning up Thor's mess and later tracking down an Asgardian we'd never heard of. Of course, that did provide a temporary boost to ABC's ratings and arguably validated Disney's crossover business strategy, but admittedly left many viewers underwhelmed.

Then there's Lady Sif's appearance a few weeks ago, which also boosted ratings and proved significantly more more fun to watch. But in the end, Sif's appearance felt like more of an afterthought en route to something bigger.

Disney's ABC is using both Captain America and Agents of SHIELD to battle CBS for ratings supremacy.

Lady Sif appeared on the March 11 episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Credit: Disney/ABC.

That's exactly where Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes into play; If you've seen the film, you know the infamous Hydra just effectively caused everybody's favorite fictional government agency to implode from within. Then again, I suppose it now makes sense why last week's shocking episode ended with Agent Victoria Hand ordering the execution of everyone on the plane -- that is, except for Agent Coulson, whom she wanted to personally kill.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is stronger than you think
But whatever happens, from an investors' standpoint it seems reasonable to expect a big-screen crossover of this magnitude to result in yet another ratings increase.

That would go a long way toward appeasing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s skeptics, especially after ratings for last week's episode fell by a tenth from the previous original telecast to a 2.0 in the core 18-49 demographic. However, that result was especially impressive as it came with the help of "just" 5.71 million live viewers. By contrast, a new episode of CBS' (NYSE: CBS) NCIS simultaneously achieved a 2.4 rating with 17.16 million viewers.

In short, while ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still working from a much smaller base than CBS' NCIS enjoys, its viewership is still comprised of individuals who, on average, are significantly more valuable to the show's advertisers. 

Better yet, ABC also chimed in with a press release this morning to confirm that, thanks largely to delayed DVR viewers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still Tuesday's No. 1 scripted show this season with Adults 18-49. In fact, each of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s episodes have averaged a 4.2 Live + 7 Day rating so far, or just ahead of NCIS' solid 4.1.

Is this sustainable? 
It would be irresponsible, however, not to point out the one big caveat to Disney's novel television business model: Namely, that setting this kind of crossover precedent for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. carries with it a certain degree of risk. 

We've seen how this can play out in the comics world, where entering an uninhibited crossover craze might help sales jump for a short while before readers get exhausted and leave. 

To their credit, it appears this is a risk of which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s producers are well aware, and they seem to be taking a more methodical approach to developing their story lines to keep viewers hooked over the long term. At the same time, when they do employ crossovers with Marvel many future cinematic properties, they simply can't leave viewers wanting when the credits roll. In the end, if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can continue intelligently tying in to its big-screen counterparts while at the same time maintaining its independence from them, there's no reason the show won't be able to thrive for years to come.

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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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