Empire Season Finale Ratings
Courtesy of Fox

UPDATE: In time zone-adjusted national estimates, “Empire” averaged a 6.5 rating in 18-49 and 16.7 million viewers overall from 8 to 10 p.m., including a 6.9 rating and 17.6 million in its regular 9 o’clock hour (which will count in season averages).

The 6.9 rating, just a tick below last week’s “The Walking Dead” on AMC, is the highest for any regularly scheduled broadcast drama since “CSI” on CBS in October 2008 (7.2).

 

Fox drama “Empire” capped its stunning first-year ratings performance Wednesday night with viewership gains for a tenth straight week and a demo delivery not seen by any broadcast series in nearly six years.

Nielsen estimates that the two-hour finale of “Empire” averaged a 6.4 rating/20 share in adults 18-49 and 16.5 million viewers overall — up about 10% in both categories from last week’s hourlong episode (5.8/17 and 14.92 million); these numbers are expected to rise in the nationals. It opened at 8 p.m. where it left off last week (5.8 demo rating) and did a 6.8/21 and 17.5 million in its regular 9 p.m. hour.

This means that “Empire” managed to grow its audience with each of the 11 hours following its Jan. 7 premiere, which averaged 9.90 million. Wednesday’s audience for the 9 o’clock hour was up a whopping 77% (or 7.6 million viewers) from the show’s debut.

The soap starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson also grew each week in its core women 18-34 demo, with Wednesday’s 7.6 rating/27 share more than double the show’s premiere-night average (3.7 rating/12).

The 6.8 rating for its second hour makes it far and away the top score for any regularly scheduled broadcast program this season, nearly 25% higher than the 5.5 rating achieved by the season premiere of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.” The only entertainment series to fare better since the start of the television season in September has been AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which did a whopping 8.7 for its fifth-season premiere last October and has averaged at least a 7 rating with 10 of its 14 episodes so far this season.

The last broadcast series airing in its regular timeslot to rate higher was Fox’s “House” in September 2009, while the last freshman finale to rate higher was ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” in May 2005. The last series to wrap its first season with a larger audience was CBS’ “The Mentalist” in 2009 (16.8 million).

“Empire” was a social-media dynamo as well Wednesday, garnering 2.4 million tweets during the broadcast, according to Nielsen Social Guide. And on Facebook, roughly 2 million people generated 15.8 million likes/comments/shares related to the finale.

CBS was a distant runner-up with a two-hour “Survivor” (2.2/7 in 18-49, 9.5 million viewers overall) and the third week of “CSI: Cyber” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 7.9 million viewers overall). The reality show matched its week-ago hourlong score while the new drama was down 0.3 from last week.

ABC aired repeats of comedies “The Middle” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 5.2 million viewers overall), “The Goldbergs” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall), “Modern Family” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 5.4 million viewers overall) and “Black-ish” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 4.4 million viewers overall) followed by the Diane Sawyer-hosted special “The Untold Story of the Sound of Music” (1.4/5 in 18-49, 7.3 million viewers overall). The special was on par in the demo and up about 2 million total viewers vs. the most recent episode of “Nashville” to air in the timeslot, and pulled ahead of “CSI: Cyber” in the 10:30 p.m. half-hour.

NBC aired repeats of “The Mysteries of Laura” (0.6/2 in 18-49, 4.4 million viewers overall), “Law & Order: SVU” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 4.7 million viewers overall) and “Chicago PD” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 4.2 million viewers overall).

And at CW, the first original “Arrow” during Daylight Saving Time dropped noticeably (0.8/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall) while “Supernatural” was a bit below average as it moved to its new night (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.9 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 6.4/20; CBS, 2.0/6; ABC, 1.3/4; NBC, 0.8/3; CW, 0.8/2.

In total viewers: Fox, 16.5 million; CBS, 9.1 million; ABC, 5.7 million; NBC, 4.5 million; CW, 2.1 million.

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