Fox’s ‘Empire’ Returns Big, Draws Second-Best Rating to Date; ‘Rosewood’ Solid

empire premiere season 2 ratings
Chuck Hodes/FOX

UPDATE: In rush nationals ordered by Fox, “Empire” was revised up to a 6.7 in adults 18-49 and 16.2 million total viewers for its second-season premiere. In the demo, that puts it ahead of its two-hour finale average from March (6.5) and only a bit behind that night’s second hour (6.9).


Fox juggernaut “Empire” showed no signs of slowing down in its sophomore season, returning Wednesday to its second best ratings to date. The network dominated the opening Wednesday of the season overall, with its “Rosewood,” the only series premiere on the night, benefiting from pre-“Empire” tune-in to deliver solid scores.

ABC’s comedy block returned strong, with “The Middle” and “The Goldbergs” on par with last year and “Modern Family” and “Black-ish” a hearty second to “Empire” in the 9 o’clock hour. CBS’ “Survivor” was down a bit but remains potent kicking off its 31st edition.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, “Empire” averaged a huge 6.5 rating/20 share in adults 18-49 and 16.0 million viewers overall — beating the ratings for all but the show’s final episode from last season. Its 9 p.m. episode on finale night in March averaged a 6.9/21 in 18-49 and 17.62 million total viewers (and its two-hour finale night average of 6.5 matched last night’s premiere).

The show had seen its overall audience grow with every episode during its first season, but that amazing streak came to an end on Wednesday.

Compared with last season’s premiere in January, “Empire” on Wednesday was up by 71% in 18-49 (6.5 vs. 3.8) and by 62% in total viewers (16.0 million vs. 9.9 million). This is the biggest improvement from season 1 premiere to season 2 premiere for any scripted series since Fox’s “House” in 2004 and 2005.

The demo score for “Empire” more than doubled the next highest-rated program on the night (3.1 for ABC’s “Modern Family”) and it’s 38% higher than the No. 2-rated series of premiere week (4.7 for CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory”). The only entertainment series on television to have drawn a higher 18-49 rating for an episode this year is AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

And in total viewers, “Empire” also towered over the Wednesday pack. Its 16.0 million was more than 6 million viewers higher than runner-up “Survivor” on CBS (9.6 million).

“Empire” was also a social-media phenom last night, with 1.3 million tweets sent during the episode — making it the most tweeted one hour broadcast drama series on record (since Nielsen began tracking about four years ago). Perhaps most impressively, and a true indication of the show’s wide appeal and reach, the tweets generated 63 million impressions.

The most tweeted minute occurred at 9:30 p.m. with 32,363 tweets after Anika (“Boo Boo Kitty”) was dancing.

Leading off Wednesday for Fox was medical drama “Rosewood” (2.4/9 in 18-49, 7.3 million viewers overall) starring Morris Chestnut. Though it hadn’t generated much buzz leading into the season, it clearly found an opening-night audience. The 2.4 rating in 18-49 makes it the young season’s No. 4-rated series premiere, behind “Blindspot,” “The Muppets” and “Life in Pieces.” It saw a big jump in the second half-hour (2.7 vs. 2.1 at 8 p.m.), a clear sign of pre-“Empire” tune-in.

Review: ‘Rosewood’

Elsewhere, ABC had to be pleased with its returning comedy block: “The Middle” (2.1/8 in 18-49, 8.2 million viewers overall), “The Goldbergs” (2.4/8 in 18-49, 7.6 million viewers overall), “Modern Family” (3.1/10 in 18-49, 9.3 million viewers overall) and “Black-ish” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 7.3 million viewers overall). “Middle” and “Goldbergs” were identical to their demo premieres of last year and topped their final nine episodes of last season.

“Modern” and “Black-ish” were down as expected, lower by 18% and 27% respectively from last year’s opening Wednesday when the competition on Fox was considerably softer (“Red Band Society” did a 1.1 in 18-49). The 2.4 for “Black-ish” matches the show’s highest rating to date opposite an episode of “Empire.”

Closing out the night, “Nashville” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 5.0 million viewers overall) was within a tenth of its year-ago premiere.

At NBC, “The Mysteries of Laura” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 6.9 million viewers overall) was down 0.3 from its year-ago timeslot premiere but nabbed its top rating since Feb. 25. And “Law & Order: SVU” (1.7/6 in 18-49, 8.2 million viewers overall) was down from its hourlong premiere of last year; with an expected uptick in the nationals, the vet would have matched its second best score since mid-November. “Chicago PD” returns for its third season next week, again airing at 10.

CBS again used the opening Wednesday of the season for the premiere of “Survivor” (2.4/9 in 18-49, 9.6 million viewers overall) and the finale of summer series “Big Brother” (2.2/7 in 18-49, 6.5 million viewers overall). With an expected uptick in the finals, the former figures to finish down about 11% from last year and up a tenth from its spring opener, while the latter capped its late-season ratings slump by coming in about 15% lower than last year’s season-ender (2.6). The Eye’s Wednesday dramas, veteran “Criminal Minds” and newcomer “Code Black,” bow next week.

CW aired “America’s Next Top Model” (0.4/2 in 18-49, 1.4 million viewers overall) and the finale of “A Wicked Offer” (0.2/1 in 18-49, 0.5 million viewers overall). “Arrow” and “Supernatural” kick off their seasons on Oct. 7.

In late-night, NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” was back as the outright leader in adults 18-49 in Nielsen’s 25 markets with Local People Meters one night after a visit from Donald Trump had boosted CBS’ “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” to a first-place tie. Last night’s 1.2 rating/6 share for “Tonight,” whose guests included James Spader, matched the show’s best score on a Wednesday in six months and nearly matched the combined scores of CBS’ “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (0.8/4) and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (0.5/2).

And in households, “Tonight” (3.0 rating/8 share) finished ahead of both “Late Show” (2.4/7) and “Kimmel” (1.8/5). That helped boost NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers” to its highest metered-market household rating for a Wednesday (1.4) in seven months.

In Nielsen finals for the week of Sept. 14-18, “Tonight Show” won again in adults 18-49 over “Late Show” (0.99 rating vs. 0.72) while moving ahead of the CBS program in total viewers (3.49 million vs. 2.85 million); Colbert had won in the latter category during his premiere week. ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” continues to lag both (0.47 in 18-49, 2.18 million viewers overall).


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  1. Mr. Diamond says:

    Nobody Want’s To See Homosexuality Being Promoted To Us As A Brand. All Empire Does Is Promote The Homosexual Agenda. And Try To Portray African Americans As Scandalous Individuals. Empire Has A Great Cast. The Writers Are Garbage. Without No Creativity. All Threw The Show They Are Disrespecting Us As A People, A Divine People. Empire Is More Propaganda To Degrade The Essence Of The Black Family. To Sissyfied The Black Male, To Degrade The Black Woman. And Break Up The Family Structure…

  2. ........... GAMETIME WITCHES!!!!! LOL!!!!!!! says:



  3. Cookie Is Life says:

    Congratulations to Empire! The new season looks amazing!

  4. cadavra says:

    Bummed that Meg Steedle is no longer on LAURA, but pleased to see all the “old people” tuned in despite almost zero promotion. NBC apparently still hasn’t learned its lesson after HARRY’S LAW.

  5. Bill B. says:

    I’ve never seen Empire. Maybe I should take a look, but all I ever see from clips is a lot of unhappy & angry people.

  6. Freddy says:

    Awesome!!! Keep on slaying Empire.

  7. Mr Model says:

    Empire “first season” started strong. It had a clear plot, strong well defined characters. Last night’s 2nd season opening was all over the place. No direction, no focus. Guest stars that didn’t fit their character or were just simply laughable in their parts. Chris Rock as this older scary street thug? Come on. I’ve noticed that negative comments on Empire’s “facebook” are erased as soon as they are posted. Too much money invested to tolerate true public reaction. I say “good luck” to this show, and hope they get their act together before the fans drop out. There have been great shows in the past, that are now history for the very same reasons. They didn’t keep the momentum or just simply changed the story and the plot and the characters, and thereby lost their viewers, who moved on to something better.

    • the era of EMPIRE says:

      I thought the new season started off with a big splash thanks to the FREE LUCIOUS concert, which led to the reveals of the big hopes and dreams of Cookie, Lucious, and their sons, which led to the big reveal of the new homothug, if you will. That is a first for television. The plot was laid out in the very beginning through Lucious and Cookie, and the clear direction it is headed in flowed mainly through the guidance of the three brothers. The guest stars served their purposes in brief, sometimes funny and always outrageous cameos. Cookie’s diss of Reverend Al Sharpton was on point (in character) and hilarious. Even Sharpton’s reaction was exactly what it needed to be at that time.
      Chris Rock’s appearance did shock me at first because I immediately saw him and expected him to be portraying himself in prison. I did not realize that it was an actual role written into that episode. But, nevertheless he was convincing as Lucious’ nemesis. I feel I received negatively, Chris Rock’s character, just like others at first. But that had absolutely zero impact on whether I am going to continue watching EMPIRE. That answer is a resounding YES! EMPIRE is MUST WATCH LIVE TV, and the only such show on all of television( woops, forgot about HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER & SCANDAL). If you don’t watch those shows live, you are out of the loop the next day when everybody, and I do mean everybody, is talking about them, dissecting them, and guessing what is going to happen the next week based on the trailers. EMPIRE has nothing to worry about except how high the ratings will soar beyond where they started this season. EMPIRE, as stated in the article, is in a ratings stratosphere out of reach by all others( the SHONDALAND ratings giants have not been posted for Thursday night yet), but I don’t think, GREY’S ANATOMY, nor SCANDAL, nor HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, will be posting 6.7 ratings, even though all were amazing last night.

  8. The one thing Hollywood understands and appreciates is ability to generate advertising income says:

    EMPIRE’S number$$$$$$$$$$$ speak for themselves.

    • FOX gettin papered! says:

      I read in some business publication this morning that FOX sells 30 sec commercial time at a rate of $750,000.00. So, you are right. It’s about that green.

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