Ratings: Fox’s ‘Empire’ Caps First Season With More Than 17 Million Viewers

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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  1. love love love this show….lucious is one evil character, this is such a good mix of young and old school, i’m definately old school, but i love the flashbacks. The Guest stars are nothing to sneeze at either, Patti Labelle…OMG… Thank god Lee made this a tv series instead of the typical movie…this series can last longer and have more twist and turns in season two…what did they do with Vernon’s body???? Where did Naiomi Campbell go? and Malcom?? did he move to DC or what!!!! Iam a fan from S1 Ep1 can’t wait!!!!! for season 2!!!!!!

  2. Alex says:

    Finale ratings are over 17 million, just thought you guys would want to know that.

  3. Tana says:

    It’s been a LONG TIME since a GREAT SHOW with an amazing cast has graced our televisions because I am hoping with such a huge viewership that we are coming to an end with the “reality show era” and getting back to some great scripted shows like this! What a ride all season, LOVED IT!

  4. LUCIOUS & COOKIE : 4EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! says:

    OMG! EMPIREEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO AWESOMEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Luscious is Ali- I’veeee(Clap clap-clap clap clap clap). Luscious is Ali-iveee (Clap clap-clap clap clap clap).

  5. zyggie says:

    Empire did not disappoint me. My hubby, daughter and I had a Empire viewing, snacks and all.
    This show turned out to be a hit. Can not wait for it to come out on DVD. Amazing actors, wardrobe, sets, music, scripts every aspect of this show was amazing. I already liked watching T. Henson from Person Of Interest and Think Like a Man and other movies and TV shows. I knew Mr. Howard was great as well but to see the chemistry from all the actors mix so well was a credit to all of the staff.

    Cookie …..Cookie…..I can not wait for next season. Lucius is a beast……get ready….

  6. To all the EmpIre builders. Wanted to declare my allegiance to Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Ilene Chaiken, “Cookie Lyon aka Taraji Henson & DWIGHT WaLKER aka “Lucius Lyon” aka Terrence Howard and Jussie Smollet along with directors Mario Van Peebles & the amazing Debbie Allen. #BeOnEmpire

  7. This is the first new TV drama in decades that I’ve shown any interest in. After last night’s exciting two-part finale, I found myself wishing I’d followed the whole series a little more diligently. These are strong characters played by distinguished actors. Not a generic TV type in the bunch. I believed every one of them. The last series that had such innovative casting was “The Sopranos.” And that was pretty popular, too, wasn’t it?

  8. I am 76 years old, white and I also love the show watched it from the start.

  9. Trisha says:

    The finale didn’t surprise me at all. Thought it was hyped up too much. However, I have watched the show all season and loved it. I just thought the finale would be more than it was. I pretty much guessed most of it.

  10. Congrats & kudos to all the producers, writers, cast & crew! EMPIRE stands out as it conquers it’s viewing audience & breaks new ground in our industry! Looking forward to season 2. So many unexpected plot twists my head is still spinning. Oh how I would love to work with this amazing group of artists. Continued success all.

  11. mary jo geddes says:

    This show was amazing last night it did not disappoint us at all, this show keeps you on the edge of your seat weekly.
    The twist and the turns in this show wow, I just wish that Cookie would have beaten the hell out of Anika but then that would have been two obvious.
    Lucious he is going to get out of jail and he is going to show them that he is not one to mess with because to him he feels that not even God can hurt him.
    I just hope that the network does not wait to long for this show to be forgotten you gotta get it while its hot. I got you. right

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