Friday, August 20, 2021

The War of 18-49, Black Lightning

The Strongest Flash Lead-Out Ever?

The CW's Black Lightning came on the scene when the DC superhero empire had already started its declines, but its early episodes looked as strong in the post-Flash timeslot as anything ever had. The premiere pulled a whooping 0.8 rating, matching its Flash lead-in, and the next couple episodes were down just a tenth from The Flash. It had a long run of 0.5's after that, usually two tenths below The Flash's 0.7, but it proved its mettle by holding the 0.5 even in weeks when The Flash was in repeats. Its 52 Plus made it the fourth-biggest newbie in the CW's history to date, trailing only Legends of Tomorrow and a couple icons of the network (The Flash and The Vampire Diaries).

When it came back to the slot in fall 2018, though, it was never the same. It opened the season with a 0.4 (merely half of its 0.8 Flash lead-in), and it was mostly 0.3's with the occasional 0.4 for the rest of the fall. So in January, just a year after its premiere, it was shipped off to Monday.

Falling Fast on Monday

The back half of season two held up OK compared to its fall ratings for awhile, maintaining 0.3's after a usual 0.4 lead-in from Arrow, but it had dropped into high 0.2's by the finale in March. It marked a disheartening 38% drop from its massive season one Plus.

The declines slowed somewhat in season three, as Black Lightning was paired with All American in its sophomore bounce season. The two were pretty close in the ratings, with both shows typically pulling high 0.2's or so. But the gulf widened considerably when the pairing returned in early 2021, in Black Lightning's pre-announced final season. All American usually had the same or better raw numbers, while Black Lightning hit some low 0.1's and only the occasional 0.2 (including a season high 0.16 for the series finale). It marked a disappointingly quick end for one of the most promising prospects in the CW's superhero years.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

1Winter 2018Tuesday 9:000.560.50.8detailA-
22018-19Tue 9:00, Mon 9:000.30-46%0.20.4detailD+
32019-20Monday 9:000.22-28%0.20.3detailC-
4Spring 20210.12-46%0.10.2detailD+

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

1Winter 201852hit(CW)0.3343717147
4Spring 202118flop0.12-32%11252325


The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.

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