The newest CW show based on a DC comic book character, Batwoman, has all of the right ingredients to generate hype: a name connected to an iconic superhero; a shared television universe to slot into and a network with a good track record for adapting DC properties.
This hype was seemingly solidified by two fall TV awareness studies, which put the show as leader the pack for this season's most anticipated premieres. The question is, however, whether that awareness will translate into consistent viewership. Batwoman's pilot episode premiered to solid ratings, especially for the relatively small network that the show airs on. These good ratings were nearly matched, in fact, by a subsequent rebroadcast. It remains to be seen, however, how ratings will fluctuate from here on out for the show.
Let's take a look at the factors that may determine why viewers would tune in to the show, as well as the factors that may work against this loyalty.
The series' initial viewership figures for the show can be attributed to several factors. For one, it's the newest CW DC show, one which spawned out of the network's last big crossover. Both staunch fans of the network's DC shows, as well as more lax fans, would have obvious interest in seeing how the show stacks up against its brethren. Speaking of crossovers, the show is also sure to play a major role in the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths event. Therefore, fans who want to be completely caught up for the crossover will have to watch the show's first few episodes, if only to know where things stand in time for Crisis.
The biggest source of interest for the show is unquestionably the Batman connection. With Gotham recently ending and the Caped Crusader himself typically reserved for the big screen, Batwoman is now the only place for viewers to see Gotham City on television. Even viewers who know nothing about Kate Kane or the Arrowverse might be interested to see if Joker, Penguin, or some other familiar Batman characters will play an important role in the series. Having the cape and cowl worn by a female protagonist is also sure to generate some extra interest.
The first broadcasts for Batwoman were successful, especially for such a niche network. That network status may come to haunt it in future episodes, however. Again, the mystery generated by a pilot for a new show typically guarantees some initial success for the show's ratings, especially a show with an automatic install base of fans. Sister series, Supergirl also premiered this season with impressive ratings, and the general excitement for the shows may again stem from the hype for the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths.
On the flip side, the higher than expected ratings for these season premieres may have stemmed from the fact that they were the first of the Arrowverse shows to return this season. For instance, The Flash returned after the other two shows with record-low ratings for a season premiere. The number of viewers was actually a good bit lower than Batwoman, despite having a storyline far more connected to Crisis. And, despite being impressive for the precedent set by the show, Supergirl's viewership was actually even lower than The Flash's.
This could point to viewer and fan stagnation with the Arrowverse, which could definitely be waning in popularity as its first series, Arrow, comes to a close this year. Even the hype surrounding Crisis wasn't enough to push The Flash up to normal ratings precedents, so fans very well could be jumping ship.
This is definitely arguable, given how much lower each new show's premiere is compared to Arrow and The Flash's pilots' ratings. Batwoman's pilot success, and especially that of the rebroadcasts, paint a different picture, but again, that has to be placed on the backdrop of the show's newness. But, if the show being new and tangentially related to Batman are the only things currently garnering it this level of interest, how long will that last? This is an especially pertinent question for viewers expecting more of the Caped Crusader himself, only to realize that they won't be getting him. Quality alone will be the most decisive factor.
These successful pilot ratings are also lower than those of Black Lightning, which featured a much more niche character, with no connection to the universally popular Batman. Again, part of this may be the network. Fox's Gotham consistently had far better ratings in its slower broadcasts then Batwoman had for its pilot, typically bringing in at least 1 million more viewers. Fox is, of course, a more readily available channel but how low can Batwoman's ratings potentially go and still be considered a success for even the CW?
Only time will tell how much further Batwoman, and the Arrowverse at large, will grow.
Written by Caroline Dries and developed by Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television, Batwoman stars Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Camrus Johnson, Dougray Scott, Elizabeth Anweis and Nicole Kang. The series airs on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.