Not since "Monday Night Football" aired on ABC has the network fielded a juggernaut hit that has consistently delivered an audience dominated by men.
Instead, ABC has been heavy on estrogen: rich soapy dramas that have attracted female viewers in droves, including "Grey's Anatomy," "Revenge," and the network's latest female skewing hit, "Scandal." The network has spent seven years trying to scare up more male viewers.
But Tuesday's night pilot episode of Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." appears to have hit the intended bull's eye with men, according to ratings analysis by ABC.
More than 12 million viewers watched the first episode, with men making up an estimated 54% of the audience.
ABC's analysis of Nielsen data found that 16 million people watched at least six minutes of the program. It performed particularly well in upscale households -- and on college campuses.
An estimated 47% of the male viewers in the 18-24 age category were college students, ABC said.
The show marks Walt Disney Co. network's first TV project with Marvel Entertainment. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is the TV spinoff of Disney's blockbuster movie, "The Avengers," and stars Clark Gregg as the intrepid agent Phil Coulson. Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") developed the show.
Last month, ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee articulated the network's mission.
"We are super proud to be the No. 1 in women 18 to 49 but we are also a broadcast network and it's absolutely incumbent on us to try to bring in a wider audience," Lee said during ABC's presentation to the Television Critics Assn.
For comparison purposes, men made up 45.4% of last season's "Last Resort," a Navy SEALs drama that was ABC's attempt to produce a program that appealed to a more gender-balanced audience. And the audience for "Lost," which ran from 2004 to 2010, was roughly 44% male.
On the other end of the spectrum is "Scandal," with Kerry Washington. Men make up just 26% of the "Scandal" audience.
Follow Meg James on Twitter: @MegJamesLATCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun