When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. officially premiered back in 2013, it did so to stellar ratings, pulling in nearly 12 million live viewers and a 4.6 in the 18-49 demo for the pilot episode. Unfortunately, the show only continued to lose viewership with each new episode, as fans struggled to accept that the television show was its own thing -- separate from the cinematic universe that it spawned from. Despite all of this, the series has managed to secure five seasons on ABC thus far, allowing the show to reach the highly coveted 100 episode milestone. So, what does this mean for S.H.I.E.L.D. going forward? Is a sixth season possible? Or will this be the last?
There's a lot that needs to be considered when trying to make sense of the show's future. Over the past few seasons, S.H.I.E.L.D. has fallen below 2 million live viewers and often under 1.0 in the all-important 18-49 demographic. For most networks, that would make for an automatic cancellation, but the series has proven to be a strong performer in delayed viewings, often rising at least 100% in Live +3 viewership once all is said and done. Despite Agent Carter having proved that the Mouse House isn't willing to let a show continue simply because it's a Marvel product, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D managed to escape cancellation. Disney even sent a mandate down to the network that wouldn't allow them to cancel the series after its fourth season. Despite it's low live numbers, the series is a DVR grower and continues to be an international draw.
Still, there's no denying that sooner or later, the series is bound to end. After all, while previous ABC Studios president Paul Lee often championed the ABC-Marvel shows, and was behind the ill-fated Mockingbird-centric spinoff, Marvel's Most Wanted, Channing Dungey was brought in to overhaul the network and help guide it back to the top. Although she has continually gone on record to suggest the network has plenty of Marvel based projects they are toying with, her cancellation of Agent Carter has proven she knows that it's ultimately a business decision at the end of the day. And with the network having slashed the season five budget for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the series appears to be ending its run on the Disney owned network. That doesn't mean a sixth season isn't possible, though. With Disney aiming to launch their own network, a show like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which still provides them opportunities to offer smaller tie-ins with the films, would make sense to help launch the streaming service.
We won't have any actual news on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fate until May when the network heads to upfronts, however, it wouldn't be too surprising to hear that Inhumans has been cancelled and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is headed to Disney's streaming service. The series has already earned syndication -- something that is accomplished with 88 episodes now, as opposed to 100 episodes -- meaning it no longer has that as leverage to retain its home on ABC. However, that doesn't take away its importance to the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. They may be two very different entities, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has proven to be an important piece of the Marvel lore, allowing the writers to craft smaller scale stories built around these otherworldly stories, and as it stands, it'd be surprising to see ABC completely cut ties with the series after it wraps up its fifth season next year.
Premiering Friday, Dec. 1, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC, the fifth season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stars Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Henry Simmons, Ian De Caestecker, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Elizabeth Henstridge, Nick Blood, Jeff Ward, Eve Harlow, Pruitt Taylor Vince and Coy Stewart.