Arrow came to the CW at just about the network's lowest point ever, when The Vampire Diaries was really the network's only decent-rated series. Smallville was gone, and once-strong young female draws like Gossip Girl, 90210 and even America's Next Top Model had completely melted down. But the Wednesday combination of Arrow and Supernatural (brought back from Friday exile) finally gave the network something else with a pulse. Arrow opened with 4.14 million viewers and a 1.3 demo rating on 10/10/2012. That was already a strong number by CDub standards, but it impressed even more by matching that 1.3 the next week.
It never got higher than that 1.3 within season one, but it spent most of the season clinging to the very low-1's. It dropped to 0.9 after the new year, but never went lower even after Daylight Saving Time hit. Season two basically matched season one in A18-49+, continuing to lurk around 1.0 for the first two-thirds of the season before dropping to new lows after DST.
The DC Empire Grows
The Arrow of the first two seasons was a huge win for the CW of the early 2010s, big enough to inspire the network to take another stab at a DC Comics superhero series. That series was The Flash, which took the network to historic heights on Tuesdays. But in the early months of Arrow's third season, it was debatable whether there was much of a Flash halo effect. It was holding up fine, still around a 1.0ish, but nothing particularly special. That all changed in the two shows' first official cross-over, which skyrocketed Arrow to a new raw series high 1.4 rating. That set off a long string of low-1's ratings for Arrow, and the show was up in raw numbers for pretty much the rest of the season.
The growth continued early into season four and culminated with another 1.4 for another cross-over in December 2015. Beyond that point, with a full season of growth under its belt, Arrow has mostly been even to a little down in Plus. But it was still good enough for the full season to hit a new historical-adjusted high once again. The Arrow of the first two seasons was roughly a top-40 series in the last 15 years of WB/UPN/CW drama ratings, but the Arrow of these next two seasons was more like top-10.
Like Chicago Fire, the other major long-term success out of the class of 2012-13, Arrow's significance goes far beyond its own ratings. It was the start of an entire line of dramas. The DC superhero empire is about to stretch across a whooping four nights, with Legends of Tomorrow launching in early 2016 and Supergirl moving to the CW in fall 2016. Unlike Chicago Fire, Arrow has actually been overshadowed by one of its spawn; The Flash is nothing less than the biggest show in CW history. But Arrow will always be the one that started it all.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
Historical-adjusted ratings by season:
The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.