No Roman holiday for ABC’s ‘Empire’

Alphabet's latest falls to weak ratings

It generated positive reviews, but ABC’s limited-run series “Empire” got off to a weak ratings start Tuesday.

While unscripted programming and lighter scripted fare have worked well in recent summers, “Empire” joins current Fox cop drama “The Inside” as the latest in a long line of serious-minded broadcast drama projects to wilt in the warm-weather months.

Tuesday also saw more bad Nielsen news for NBC, as viewers yawned at its unscripted duo of “I Want to Be a Hilton,” which declined from its modest week-earlier bow, and the returning “Average Joe.” Peacock, like the other major nets, had its lineup thrown off-kilter some by President Bush’s address on Iraq.

ABC’s “Empire,” a historical drama starring Jonathan Cake as a champion gladiator, settled for a 1.9 rating/5 share in adults 18-49 and 6.35 million viewers overall for its two-hour premiere from 9 to 11, according to Nielsen.

Those who started with “Empire” stuck with it, though, as it moved up to second place in its final hour and peaked with 6.77 million viewers from 10:30 to 11. Not surprisingly, its 18-49 aud was roughly 53% male — an unusual testosterone tilt for a Big 3 series.

“Empire” will air in hourlong segs at 10 o’clock for the next four weeks.

As for NBC, week two of “I Want to Be a Hilton” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 4.45 million viewers overall) placed third or fourth in all key categories, declining 28% in 18-49 from its ho-hum preem score (2.5/7).

It was on par with ABC’s first hour of “Empire” in 18-49 and was eclipsed by CBS’ solid hidden-camera skein “Fire Me … Please” (2.5/7 in 18-49, 5.96m) as well as a repeat of Fox drama “House” (2.4/7, 7.12m).

And “Average Joe 4: The Joes Strike Back” struck out in its premiere (1.9/5 in 18-49, 4.33m), which aired at 10 o’clock in much of the country and in its regular 8 p.m. slot in the West.

Nielsen estimates that an average of 23.06 million watched Bush’s address to the nation, which ran from 8 to roughly 8:30 p.m. ET.

Elsewhere, BET’s coverage of the “BET Awards” from Los Angeles was the most-watched cable telecast Tuesday night (and No. 3 ad-supported show overall, behind only two broadcast skeins), averaging 6.58 million viewers.

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