'Supergirl' debut: Can it win over older viewers on CBS?

In the past, the network has been home to some of the oldest viewers in primetime. Will 'Supergirl' prove to be a triumph for CBS?

'Supergirl' stars Melissa Benoist.

The new show “Supergirl,” which centers on the female superhero of the same name, debuts tonight on CBS. Will it win over viewers? 

“Supergirl” stars “Glee” actress Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El, also known as Supergirl. Kara is Superman’s cousin and was raised by a foster family on Earth, which includes her foster sister (Chyler Leigh). Now she works for a media company and must grapple with her powers and what to do about them. 

It’s no surprise that CBS is trying to secure a superhero TV show of its very own. In the current superhero-saturated culture, almost every major network and streaming service has one. Current high-profile superhero programs on broadcast TV are ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Agent Carter” as well as the CW’s “Arrow” and “The Flash.” Fox is airing “Gotham,” though the series has gotten mixed reviews critically, while NBC recently canceled its superhero show “Constantine.” 

Meanwhile, Netflix debuted its superhero TV show “Daredevil” last spring and “Jessica Jones” arrives next month. The streaming service has announced that two more, “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist,” are on their way and that the shows will culminate in a miniseries featuring all of the characters titled “The Defenders.”

In the past, CBS’s viewers were some of the oldest for primetime TV – as of earlier this year, 59.9 was the median age for those tuning into the network, which is the oldest median age for the big broadcasters. ABC is second to CBS with a median viewer age of 55.9. (The valued demographic in TV is viewers who are 18-49.) And superhero stories could be viewed as a younger person’s genre – for this summer’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” about 59 percent of moviegoers who attended opening weekend were under 25. This summer’s “Ant-Man” attracted more older moviegoers, however, with 55 percent of the opening weekend crowd being over 25. 

One show may have convinced CBS “Supergirl” could be a hit for them: the comedy “The Big Bang Theory.” “Theory” centers on a group of scientists who love superheroes, “Star Wars,” and other similar media. In addition to being a huge hit for the network, “Theory” does well with younger viewers ­– for the 2014-2015 TV season, it was the third-highest-rated show among viewers 18-49 on any network, behind only NBC's "Sunday Night Football" and Fox's music drama "Empire." 

In addition, CBS seems to be trying to bring in younger viewers and may think “Supergirl” could be key in doing so. A similar effort by the network was seen with recruiting Stephen Colbert to host the network’s “Late Show” program. When Colbert’s previous program “The Colbert Report” aired its series finale on Comedy Central, the show became the highest-rated cable show for the night among those viewers who are 18-49 (excluding football). 

If “Supergirl” succeeds, it will be interesting to see whether CBS brings in more programming aimed at younger TV viewers.

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