The CW has a good thing going with its annual Arrowverse crossover events. Like last year’s Crisis on Earth-X, this year’s Elseworlds handed the network its best viewership of the TV season, with the whirlwind mini-marathon generating tons of social media buzz and night-by-night speculation about how it would set the stage for what’s to come.
But even with Elseworlds drawing so many eyeballs, it came nowhere close to the numbers posted last year, when Crisis on Earth-X pulled in no fewer than 4.4 million viewers and a 1.6 Nielsen rating across even the weakest-performing piece of its four-show, two-day lineup.
This year, by comparison, event finale Supergirl — Elseworlds’ best-performing show — managed 2.17 million viewers and a .8 Nielsen rating. Arrow, the middle installment in the three-night, three-show series, was close behind with 2.04 million viewers and a .8 rating. Bringing up the rear was The Flash, which kicked off Elseworlds on Sunday, drawing 1.83 million viewers and .7 rating.
What’s interesting about The CW’s approach to this year’s mash-up is the evident gamble it took in switching The Flash and Supergirl from their regular time slots to give Elseworlds an event premiere on Sunday (a night The CW expanded into this season for original programming). The move set up a one show per-night miniseries that extended Elseworlds across three nights instead of two, but perhaps offered less of a stay-home-and-binge experience than Crisis on Earth-X, which strategically gobbled up chunks of fans’ time by airing its nightly episodes back-to-back.
It’s probably worth noting, too, that Elseworlds didn’t start the downward ratings shift for The CW’s crossover events, which have been successful no matter how they’ve aired. Those Crisis on Earth-X numbers that look so impressive in hindsight were, at the time, behind the curve of 2016's Invasion and its predecessors — 2014’s Flash vs. Arrow and 2015’s Heroes Join Forces. It’s also worth noting that all three Elseworlds episodes have been a huge hit with critics, with each scoring off the charts over at Rotten Tomatoes.
Although The CW went ahead and teased next year’s Crisis On Infinite Earths at the end of Supergirl, we won’t know until later next year whether it’ll revise its time slot strategy for next year’s event — a hugely important one in the larger DC comic book universe. In the meantime, if you haven’t had the chance to catch up on Elseworlds, you can stream all three episodes totally free at The CW online, or via The CW app.