Judging by most of the headlines following the release of this week's TV ratings for Disney's (NYSE:DIS) new Marvel-inspired drama, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I wouldn't have blamed readers for wondering whether the show was rapidly descending into dud territory.
After all, the folks at Entertainment Weekly certainly weren't alone in lamenting that this week's ratings number represented the fourth consecutive decline in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s core 18 to 49 year-old demographic share since its blockbuster debut.
And I suppose that would have been true had it not been for the fact the final results adjusted Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s number up by a tenth to 2.7, which means it actually stopped the downward trend and held steady with the previous week's result.
To their credit, though, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s opening episode did set the bar unbelievably high by absolutely crushing every other show in its path -- including NBC's The Voice and CBS' (NYSE:CBS) perennial ratings juggernaut, NCIS -- with a 4.6 rating for the overall 18-49 demographic.
What's more, even though the show's second episode predictably fell hard from its overachieving predecessor, few skeptics also remember the fact Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. managed to beat NCIS yet again in the core ratings battle with its third week.
It's all about perspective
Sure, some of that super-strength can be chalked up not only to the fact Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is happily guilty by association with The Avengers, but also to its increasingly sticky storylines and solid character development.
Then again, I'll be the first to give credit where credit is due; remember, NCIS did grab an incredible 18.99 million live viewers last Tuesday, which absolutely dwarfed the 7.39 million folks who watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the same hour.
But if you dig deeper than just those raw numbers, there's another way Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is proving its worth to Disney and ABC outside of merely pursuing the largest possible group of total viewers.
Specifically, while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could "only" muster second place to CBS' NCIS in the overall 18-49 ratings last week, ABC later confirmed it ranked as Tuesday's number one TV show for the fifth week in a row for the key men's 18-34 and 18-49 demographics. What's more, ABC also noted Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been going up by at least one tenth of a point each week in the national ratings.
Call me crazy, but that hardly resembles a show destined for failure over the long-term. Perhaps best of all from an investment perspective, I can't imagine it gets any easier for advertisers to selectively target core groups of viewers than with the overwhelmingly adult male group tuning in to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. each week.
So rest assured, my fellow Marvel fans, because your favorite live-action show is doing just fine.
Fool contributor 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.