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Fall TV: Why Batman Will Vanquish The Flash, Green Arrow and Constantine

As most comic-book aficionados know, Batman has no super powers. Yet he will muster enough energy to trounce super-speedster The Flash, the flamboyant Green Arrow, various agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and mysterious magician John Constantine in at least one TV-ratings race this fall.

According to a Variety survey of commercial-ratings projections from four major media buyers, Fox’s freshman Batman-themed drama “Gotham” is expected to garner more “C3” ratings than any other comics-themed drama on the 2014-2015 broadcast TV grid.

The buyers expect “Gotham,” to secure an average 1.93 “C3” rating among viewers between 18 and 49. That compares with a 1.8 for ABC’s Tuesday-night drama “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”; a 1.66 for its companion “Agent Carter”; a 1.33 for NBC’s Friday-night drama “Constantine”; a .96 for “The Flash,” on Tuesdays on the CW; and .93 for the third season of “Arrow” on Wednesdays on CW.

“Gotham,” Monday, Fox, 1.93
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Tuesday, ABC 1.8
Agent Carter,” Tuesday ABC, 1.66
“Constantine,” Friday NBC 1.33
“The Flash,” Tuesday, CW, 0.96
“Arrow,” Wednesday, CW, 0.93

Nielsen estimated a single ratings point in the 2013-2014 season was equivalent to about 1,269.600, and is expected to revise its estimates upward for the next season.

Presence of the five dramas in the coming TV season serves to illustrate the desire TV networks have for fans of super-heroes and science fiction, who tend to be quite fervent in their ardor for such stuff and are willing to talk about their favorite programs in social media and digital milieu. Some of this may be stoked by the intense ratings for AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” a drama about a zombie apocalypse that beats most broadcast-network fare in the 18-to-49 viewership advertisers say they covet, and which is also inspired by a comic book series. Other content players are also moving in on the genre. Netflix has unveiled plans to run four different series in 2015 based on Marvel super-heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and “Iron Fist.”

Given the CW’s success with super-hero programming in the past – think “Smallville” – one might think “The Flash” would gain more traction come autumn. “’The Flash,’ like ‘Arrow’ will very likely bring in some additional viewers to the network,” said Billie Gold, vice president and director of buying and programming research at ad-buying shop Carat. But those new eyeballs will likely come from the fervent niche of people who are fans of comics. “If critics praise it, it may even get an additional bump and get better than average sampling, but will likely settle in to projected numbers within a few weeks. CW viewers in general are the demo who are also more likely to use the internet to stream program content, and that often takes away from their TV viewership levels,” she added.

At 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, “Flash” also has headier competition, taking on both “The Voice” on NBC and “NCIS” on CBS – both ratings stalwarts. For its part, “Gotham” is the only drama in the 8 p.m. timeslot on Mondays, playing opposite powerful sitcoms “Big Bang Theory,” “2 Broke Girls” and “Mom” on CBS; “The Voice” on NBC; and “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC. “Constantine” is likely to get fewer viewers in the 18-to-49 demo because of its Friday-night perch.

Program ratings continue to capture the bulk of attention from the viewing public and TV executives, but advertisers look elsewhere. Since May 2007, sponsors and ad buyers have instead used the number of viewers between 18 and 49 who watch a particular show within three days’ of its on-air debut — and don’t skip the ads – as the basis for their TV purchases. The measure, known as” C3″ (or commercial ratings-plus-3), became part of negotiations between networks and their advertisers as increasing use of DVRs eroded viewership of programs, as well as the commercials that interrupt them.

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