Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned from their month-long hiatus last night with the much-anticipated “What If…” episode and “Agents of Hydra” pod. Several different indicators suggested that the decision to throw the show into an alternate reality significantly increased interest in the show. Suddenly Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was drumming up clicks, social media interactions, and podcast listens which it has struggled to get over the last few years. Did all of the buzz make a difference in the ratings?
The answer is yes, but not by much. Last night’s episode pulled a 0.7/3 with 2.2 million viewers. This is up a smidge from the 0.6/2 of the previous two episodes in the LMD arc. As always, there are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, it is positive that the show not only held ground but also gained a little. The flip side is that CW’s iZombie and Legends of Tomorrow were the only network shows who performed worse. Also, the hope that this pod would be a game changer turned out to be incorrect. This episode performed at the same level as the worst rated episode of the “Ghost Rider” pod.
It will take some time to see what happens with the L+7 ratings, which include DVR watches. If the show holds steady with previous results this season, it should add 100-133% to that number, which has been the show’s saving grace thus far. It is possible that the goodwill that poured out for the new pod upon introduction back in February will present itself in a bigger boost than that already fantastic number.
The other minor storyline to follow here is how the “pods” effect ratings. What the results show is that the little breaks between pods lead to a one-tenth bump upon return. The pod “finales” thus far have shown no increase and, in fact, sometimes underperform previous episodes. None of the shifts are large enough to suggest the pods make a significant ratings difference, though fans seem to enjoy the story benefits.
As we’ve mentioned over and over throughout this season, these numbers create a lot of uncertainty about renewal of the show. Most shows on the big four networks would suffer cancellation with this kind of performance, but it seems that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has some other factors in its favor, including the Marvel/ABC connection, the good DVR results, and the loyalty of the fan base. All that said, most prognosticators still see the show as on the edge. (For example Michael Ausiello at TVLine still has it as a toss-up.)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues its alternate reality “Agents of Hydra” pod next week on ABC at 10PM.