Agent Phil Coulson's vintage Corvette may be soaring ever upward, but the ratings for ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are continuing a slow decline. After debuting with some of the highest ratings in recent history for the network, the show managed to pull in 7.1 million viewers during Episode 5, "Girl in the Flower Dress" - with a 2.6 rating among the key 18-49 demographic, down from the previous week's 2.8.
Those numbers are still a far cry from trouble on their own, but as Marvel's first venture onto network television continues to slip in both viewers and demographics, the trend could become problematic. Fast.
To reiterate: being able to pull in 7.1 million viewers without a lead-in on a Tuesday night is nothing to scoff at (and clearly, enough to warrant a full-season order). But while the 34% drop in viewers from the series premiere to its second episode was somewhat expected, the fact that AoS can't seem to hold steady in its fifth week is a sign that it may be charting troubled waters.
A rocky start is to be expected (even if Disney's marketing and promotion for the show was hoping to smooth things over), but by this point in the season, most procedural dramas tend to have hit their pace both in structure and audience. And while we would argue that Episode 5 seemed to cement the formula AoS will be following, the show continues to bleed viewers in demographics they need to retain.
One of the luxuries afforded the studio by bringing their shared movie universe to TV (with a fan-favorite character leading the charge) was the existing fan base: a healthy viewership who would give the show more time than most out of a simple desire to see how the S.H.I.E.L.D. fiction would be expanded (and which comic book characters might appear). That assumption may or may not be accurate, but if loyalty is helping boost ratings, that enthusiasm seems to be waning.
So although the downward trend may not be drastic enough to panic ABC execs, it is also certainly not the kind of foundation Marvel was hoping to launch 4 new TV shows on top of. Details on those projects haven't been released, but if AoS's ratings don't bounce back soon, those plans might need to change.
Of course, lapsed viewers might be brought back into the mix if the show's writers decide to counter fan criticism by letting the cat out of the bag concerning Coulson's resurrection, or simply addressing our most nagging issues with the series. Even if that's the case, it will still take time for viewer feedback to be implemented. Where the ratings sit at that point remains to be seen.
What do you make of the slipping ratings? Does this come as no surprise, or do you think a rebound is coming soon? Sound off in the comments.
Catch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. every Tuesday @8pm EST on ABC.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.