Thor Crossover helps Disney Marvel's Agents of SHIELD ratings compete with CBS and NCIS

Chris Hemsworth & Clark Gregg as Thor and Agent Coulson in Marvel's The Avengers, Image source: Disney

A few days ago, I wondered if the widely anticipated crossover between Thor: The Dark World and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would work as parent company Disney (NYSE:DIS) intended.

Fortunately for Marvel fans, the answer at this point seems a resounding "Yes!" As it turns out, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just led Disney's ABC network to its strongest Tuesday performance in eight weeks since the series began.

Thanks largely to interest in the tie-in with its big screen counterpart, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. successfully broke its seven-week ratings downtrend by garnering 6.89 million live viewers and a 2.4 rating in the overall 18-49 demographic. And while the show only managed to increase its total viewership by 1% over last week, it gained a much more impressive 5% in the key adult 18-49 demographic.

Thor Crossover helps Disney Marvel's Agents of SHIELD ratings compete with CBS and NCIS

Image source: ABC

Around this time last week, many entertainment industry watchers were questioning Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s long-term survival, after it had just earned a series-low 2.2 rating with 6.63 million live viewers

Of course, that train of thought also ignored the fact Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. not only had finished atop its hour with each of its first seven episodes in the key men's 18-34 demographic, but also had more than doubled ABC's year-ago delivery in the overall 18 to 49-year-old group. 

On the surface, this looks like a fantastic step toward validating Disney's brave decision to encourage collaboration across different entertainment mediums with two complementary pieces of intellectual property -- in this case, using Marvel's comprehensive universe of characters.

Is it enough?
Will it be enough to silence the critics? 
I doubt it, at least over the short term.

Remember, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. still ranked a distant second to CBS' (NASDAQ:VIAC) perennial favorite, NCIS, which commanded an amazing 19.66 million live viewers during the same hour. The funny thing is, that still "only" earned CBS' number one show a 3.0 rating as gauged by its overall adult 18-49 viewership.

For reference, the last time Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. managed to top NCIS in the Tuesday night 18-49 ratings battles was on Oct. 10, when it earned a 2.9 with only 7.9 million live viewers. In short, that's a testament to just how much more valuable, on average, each of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s viewers really are to advertisers.

But for now, the comic book-based show remains happily in second place. Going forward, though its ratings gains this week are noteworthy, the real test will be to see how it holds up without the novelty of a Thor crossover on its side next week.

On one hand, if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D resumes its downtrend going forward, it'll almost certainly queue a renewed chorus of naysayers pointing out how audiences weren't quite intrigued enough to stick around. On the other, if it can either gain or hold its ground next week, a little crow might be on the menu for the skeptics.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.