Marvel's 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Ratings Post Surprise Drop -- But Don't Write It Off Yet

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ratings fell despite a big Captain America: The Winter Soldier crossover. Credit: Disney/ABC.

Wow. Just...wow.

Don't worry. I'm not going to spoil last night's episode of Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for you, but I admit I never saw it coming. Thanks to a massive planned crossover with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I say that as a fan who was fully expecting big changes and shocking reveals from the ABC drama going in.

But we were in for another surprise this morning: Preliminary ratings for last night's episode actually dropped by three tenths from last week to a season-low 1.7 in adults 18-49. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s estimated live viewers also fell by roughly 800,000 over the same period to just 4.91 million. 

Meanwhile, and despite winning its second Tuesday in a row, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) NBC's The Voice also fell by two-tenths to give it a 2.8 rating with a live audience of 11.76 million. The lone gainer was CBS' (NYSE: CBS  ) NCIS, which enjoyed a 3-tenths of a point bump from last week's final numbers. That left CBS' typical ratings juggernaut a close-second with a 2.6 rating and 17.18 million viewers.

Don't give up on S.H.I.E.L.D. yet
But before you lead Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. away in cuffs, some perspective is in order.

Keep in mind these are preliminary Fast Affiliate numbers, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has made a habit of fooling industry pundits with upward adjustments when the final Tuesday figures are revealed two days later. When all was said and done six days ago, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s ratings and live viewers for last week's original telecast were increased by two-tenths and 320,000 people, respectively, resulting in its final 2.0 for adults 18-49 on 5.71 million viewers.

In fact, 13 of its 17 original episodes have gone up when the final ratings roll in -- twice by two-tenths including last week, and by one-tenth the remaining 11 times. Of course, this also means Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will need to see its first ever three-tenths upward adjustment in order to match last week's final rating. I'm a stubborn optimist, but even I'll admit that seems unlikely.

Even so, this doesn't mean Disney is about to drop the axe, especially after ABC chimed in this morning to say Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just won its hour with Men 18-34 for the 17th consecutive episode. In addition, S.H.I.E.L.D. remains tied as the season's top-rated broadcast drama overall with Comcast NBC's The Blacklist.

Finally, with 63,826 total related tweets yesterday -- a 124% increase from last week -- ABC states Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was Tuesday's "No. 1 most social primetime series across cable and broadcast." Sure, that's admittedly a less conventional metric for measuring its worth, but I'm still convinced Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s strong social media presence remains one of the most effective drivers of its long-term success.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 09, 2014, at 6:42 PM, gpcat wrote:

    Well, I wasn't surprised about SHIELD's ratings, actually, I was kinda expecting it...

    There is one small detail that most people are ignoring, yesterday's episode tightly in directly with Captain America The Winter Soldier, so much that it's been said for a long time now it'll have spoilers for the movie. So, isn't it obvious? I know the movie had a huge boxoffice on the first weekend but still not all of the show's fans were able to watch it on the first weekend. If they didn't watch the movie yet obviously they wouldn't watch the show just as I won't.

    I live in Brazil and Shield's episode airs tomorrow night but I (who never missed one single episode and am a diehard fan) won't be able to watch it 'cause the movie hasn't aired in Brazil yet. Actually, I'll be watching the movie (hopefully if I find tickets) on the night that the show airs.

    I expect though the biggest boost yet in the live+7 ratings, and I believe Shield is up to some boost next week, but we will see how the movie influenced the show really in three weeks time, when I believe most of Shield fans will have had time enough to go to the theaters and watch the movie.

  • Report this Comment On April 09, 2014, at 7:30 PM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    One of the problems with S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2014 is that they have been building up to this crossover event. So much so that they've had to skip multiple week's worth of new episodes so they could line up these past two episodes with The Winter Soldier.

    - New episode on January 7. New episode on January 14.

    Skip January 21. Skip January 28.

    - New episode on February 4.

    - Skip February 11. Skip February 18. Skip February 25.

    - New episode on March 4. New episode on March 11.

    - Skip March 18. Skip March 25.

    - New episode on April 1. New episode on April 8.

    A little bit of that is ABC's network-wide scheduling, but still... very difficult to build momentum for a TV show with a schedule like that.

    When is the new episode? Is it next week? The week after? Two weeks after? Who knows!

    It appears the next three episodes will be shown without a skipped week. So we'll at least have five episodes in a row without a skipped week.

  • Report this Comment On April 09, 2014, at 11:49 PM, TMFSymington wrote:

    @gpcat, Good point. AoS has a tendency to catch up in a big way when L + 7 day ratings arrive. I'll be watching the numbers closely and will be sure to touch base next week.

    @SuntanIronMan, You're right about the momentum-killing schedule so far...those breaks effectively pushed any fans who didn't stay on their toes away as it was tough to keep track of when something new would air. Luckily, though, we've got five episodes in a row straight through to the season finale from here!

    Thanks for reading and Fool on,

    Steve (TMFSymington)

  • Report this Comment On April 10, 2014, at 7:54 AM, JustAGuyNamedJoe wrote:

    My wife and I have watched every episode, but we never watch it 'live.' Our lives have evolved to the point where we no longer sit around waiting on the Networks to bless us in their own, sweet, commercial riddled time. We own our schedules and watch what we want when we want. In fact, its been decades since I last let the networks tell me what time I have to be sitting in my living room to receive their content.

    I purchased an Agents of SHIELD Season's Pass on iTunes (the first and only time I've ever done that) and each ep is available for download when I wake up Wednesday morning. I start the download and head to the office. We watched Tuesday's Winter Soldier follow-up ep last night (Wednesday night) and will be iTuning in again next Wednesday night.

    On our time, according to our schedule. I wonder why anyone even pays attention to 'ratings' anymore. How can they possibly be relevant in this day and age?

  • Report this Comment On April 10, 2014, at 6:55 PM, Richardragan wrote:

    I have never missed a show yet SHIELD is so good its hard to beleve people arnt watching it .Makes me wonder if they realy know how many people are watching it how do they know .They must have a fue hundred people they are scaning and that group must be a bunch of deadbeats that dont like these kind of shows. They must like Reaily and Cop shows . Thoses types of shows i dont care for . Ya SHIELD started out slow its been picking up the last fue weeks starting with the intro with Deathlok . I think them skipping weeks hear and there didnt help. SHIELD is so darn good its hard to beleve these reports .

  • Report this Comment On April 10, 2014, at 10:32 PM, TMFSymington wrote:

    FWIW, Tuesday Final ratings are in and AoS received a nice little two-tenths bump to a 1.9 rating with 5.37 million live viewers. Basically holding steady at this point.

    Cheers,

    Steve (TMFSymington)

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2014, at 5:57 PM, sidbjammin wrote:

    AoS is the only show I've paid money on Amazon to watch. I cut the cable years ago, and this is the only show I've cared enough about to shell out 2 bucks per episode to watch. I wonder what the ratings are for pay per view and I wonder why these aren't included in the mix. It seems to me that this show has been underserved the way ratings are followed.

    Much like Star Trek was.

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