The superhero bubble has finally burst, according to the ratings for Fear The Walking Dead, Marvel's Inhumans, Supergirl, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. Each of the shows has posted lower ratings than previous seasons, or generally disappointing ratings in the case of Inhumans, which is in its first season. According to my expert opinion as an entertainment journalist, this is a major cause for panic, because lower numbers are less gooder than higher ones.
Fear The Walking Dead returned from its mid-season break on September 10th with a double-feature premiere that scored the lowest viewership in the history of the series, with 2.14 million viewers… that is, until the following week's episode, which brought in just 1.99 million. The show's 18-49 demo rating has been less than 1.0 for the majority of its third season. The show premiered in 2015 with 10.13 million total viewers and a 4.9 rating.
Over at the House of Ideas, things haven't been much better. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has dropped in ratings over the course of its four seasons. The show debuted in 2013 with 17 million total viewers and a 4.7 rating, only to end Season 4 with 4.07 million viewers and a .7 rating. Some executives at ABC wanted to cancel the show, but Disney reportedly forced them to keep it on the air.
S.H.I.E.L.D. won't be back for a fifth season until late 2017 or early 2018. In the meantime, keeping its new Friday time slot lukewarm is Marvel's Inhumans, which performed so badly in IMAX previews it may have ruined the IMAX preview concept for all future TV shows. The show debuted with 3.75 live million viewers and a .9 rating share. The DVR numbers aren't available yet, but will probably push the total viewers over 5 million. The other shows discussed in this article so far all include DVR numbers in their totals.
Things aren't much better in the Arrowverse. Supergirl debuted on CBS in 2015 with 16.92 million total viewers and a 3.1 rating. By the time its second season hit the CW in 2016, its first episode was already down to 4.08 million total viewers and a 1.1 rating. Supergirl's third season premiere last Monday doesn't have DVR numbers yet, but live viewers are are 1.87 million, the second lowest in the show's history, and down from the Season 2 premiere's 3.06 million live viewers.
On Tuesday, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow premiered lower than their previous seasons' premieres. Neither show started out as high as Fear The Walking Dead, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., or Supergirl, so their ratings seem more stable by comparison, but neither show is burning up the charts. The Flash had just 2.8 million live viewers and a 1.0 rating for its Season 4 premiere, after seeing a series low of 2.39 million live viewers with a .9 rating last season. That record will almost certainly be broken before the first half of Season 4.
Legends of Tomorrow, in just its third season, had 1.74 million live viewers and a .6 rating, down slightly from its Season 2 debut — but the only show in this article so far to beat its previous season finale. However, it also has less viewers than any of the other shows overall.
Elsewhere in the DC universe, Gotham Season 4 premiered on Fox in September with 3.13 million live viewers and a 1.0 rating. That's down slightly from its Season 3 premiere, and higher than its Season 3 finale. However, it's less than half the live viewers of the series premiere, so Gotham's ratings have seen overall attrition closer to the non-CW shows.
The only logical conclusion from any of this is that the comic book TV show audience has imploded, and unless Arrow's Season 6 premiere Thursday is watched by 15 million people, we might as well just give it up and find a new genre to enjoy.
Well, it was nice while it lasted.