The ratings have arrived for Gauntlet of Fire, and they are lower than expected at 196k viewers. Last season whenever this happened, there was a swarm of gloom and doom followed by the next week blowing them out of the water. Like most things analyzed on the internet, numbers can and do fluctuate wildly based on the smallest little thing. Lets dive in on why this might have happened to Gauntlet of Fire below!
I think most of us can agree that the last episode was actually really awesome, but the first point I'm going to make is that this probably wasn't the expectation going in for a lot of people. Last time, we had "Princess Spike" pulling some of the lowest ratings of season 5 at a meager 260,000 viewers right after Slice of Life almost hit half a million. He's a great supporting character, but until Gauntlet of Fire, his solo excursions into episodes weren't always the most well loved. We've seen a reaction to what the episode will focus on play a role in ratings a few times now. There just wasn't a lot of excitement to get up early and watch an episode about a character that has tried several times and really not succeeded, at least among the fandom.
This is something tempering pony, and a lot of shows in general though. In an increasingly internet-based world, where these things tend to be available online, commercial free, any time, right after officially airing, there is much incentive to pick up a cable package and wake up for something you can just watch freely later. It's a culture shift we have seen dominate over the past five years.
That's another point though. Pony has two major demographics; the kids who typically don't have control over their family's cable plan, and the adult millennial fanbase that is rapidly switching to a less cable-tied world. It's expensive, inconvenient, and slowly becoming an obsolete concept when you can binge watch an entire season of something on Netflix or Amazon whenever you please.
And Hasbro isn't dumb. They are already showing preparation for this move via the fourth Equestria Girls movie. If you missed the news a few months ago, Netflix will be airing it before Discovery Family. It's skipping the cable TV premiere circuit and going straight to a place they know will watch the hell out of it.
Right now Friendship is Magic is one of, if not the most successful shows on the channel. If there is anything at all dragging down it's ratings, it's the fact that it doesn't have nearly the reach it could in its target demographics.
So what does that mean for the future of pony? Not much for now. If Discovery Family itself isn't shut down, I can't see them ever wanting to drop their highest rated show. If they do close, Hasbro most likely wouldn't ditch their biggest girls IP. While things may be dying off on the Cable TV front, on the cartoon and entertainment side, the world is only becoming more and more open and connected. Alternatively, it could also follow Transformers over to Cartoon Network.
We have a movie coming in 2017. It would honestly be surprising if they cancelled series MLP with as much hype as that will drag in. Hasbro's Equestria Girls move shows an eagerness to shift to the internet age, and with Guardians of Equestria possibly being a series of it's own, they definitely have future plans for the brand.