Alphabet pondering fall of its ‘Empire’

Octavius project has been in prod'n since mid-April

ABC’s “Empire” may be crumbling.

Network execs are mulling over plans to reduce the episodic order on the $30 million limited-run series — or scrub it altogether.

Alphabet web officially ordered eight episodes of the project, currently being shot in Rome, last December. Penned by Thomas Wheeler, “Empire” follows the story of Julius Caesar’s 17-year-old nephew Octavius, who battles Marc Antony for control of Rome.

Producers Storyline and Touchstone declined comment but a Touchstone insider said ABC might still opt to keep the eight-seg order or, more likely, reduce it to six.

But there’s also a chance ABC may decide to cut its losses and drop the entire project, even though production has been under way since mid-April.

“Empire” has been hit by a number of hiccups, starting with the exchange rate, which has set the series’ budget back by millions of dollars.

“Empire” also suffered a setback when the series was forced to switch out line producers. The original producer incorrectly estimated the project’s budget, forcing serious cost overruns.

And it also probably didn’t help that ABC and “Empire” found themselves in a race with HBO’s own epic project, “Rome,” which boasts a much bigger budget.

Then there was the regime change at ABC, where former entertainment TV group topper Lloyd Braun was one of “Empire’s” biggest boosters. Braun had championed the idea of doing a “Gladiator”-style drama in the first place, and former entertainment president Susan Lyne quickly pushed the idea as well.

“It was Lloyd’s baby, he conceived it, he wanted to do it, and Susan got on board immediately,” one source said. “When the two biggest supporters are gone, you’re left alone all of a sudden.”

It’s less clear whether new entertainment topper Steve McPherson or recently appointed networks group chief Anne Sweeney shared that affinity.

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