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With a growing “Empire” and still-stout numbers from “American Idol,” Fox is off to a better-than-expected start in the new year.

While CBS dominated the total-viewer derby last week in ridiculous fashion, Fox found itself in unfamiliar ratings territory — first place — in primetime’s key young-adult demo. “Empire” and “Idol” were the top draws of the week in adults 18-49 as the net beat its ABC-CBS-NBC competition combined on Wednesday.

Fox has now won two of the three weeks in 18-49 since “Empire” and “Idol” bowed — its first outright victories during an in-season frame without major sports help since April 2013.

“Empire” averaged a 4.4 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 and 11.07 million viewers overall last week, rising 10% week-to-week (from 4.0) and 16% above its debut (3.8), according to Nielsen. In doing so, it became the first hit broadcast series to grow two straight weeks in the demo following its series premiere since ABC’s “Moon Over Miami” in 1993.

Last Wednesday’s episode then rose to a 5.9 demo rating in Live+3, moving it ahead of the series premiere of ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” in September (5.7) and making it the season’s top-rated broadcast by this metric.

CBS, which ran second in young adults and tied Fox forfirst among adults 25-54, claimed 18 of the week’s top 20 most-watched broadcasts overall. In a week when shows like “NCIS” and “Big Bang Theory” were in repeats, it was rookie drama “Scorpion” (12.08 million) finishing on top of the rankings for the first time.

The final week of January also included Tuesday’s “State of the Union” address, which averaged a cume audience of 31.71 million on 14 networks — the second smallest tune-in for the event in at least 23 years (behind only President Clinton’s final SOTU in 2000). Since drawing a big 52.37 million viewers for his first SOTU in 2009, Obama has now seen each of his successive addresses draw a smaller crowd.

Overall, according to “live plus same-day” estimates from Nielsen, Fox led in adults 18-49 with a 1.8 rating/6 share and was followed by CBS (1.4/4), NBC (1.3/4), Univision (1.2/4) and ABC (1.1/3). In total viewers, CBS (8.5 million) drew about 3 million more than runner-up Fox (5.4 million).

For Fox, “American Idol” held strong in its third week, hitting a season high on Wednesday (3.4/11 in 18-49, 11.76 million viewers overall) and also showing week-over-week gains on Thursday (2.8/9 in 18-49, 10.65 million viewers overall).

Rainn Wilson-fronted drama “Backstrom” got off to an OK start behind “Idol” on Thursday (1.9/6 in 18-49, 7.98 million viewers overall), though it will face much tougher drama competition (“Scandal,” “Blacklist”) in the coming weeks.

Of note for CBS last week was Thursday’s “Mom” (2.4/8 in 18-49, 11.05 million viewers overall), which matched its repeat “Big Bang Theory” lead-in in the demo. And capping the night, “Elementary” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 8.28 million viewers overall) matched its season high of two weeks earlier as it continues to fare better without original “How to Get Away With Murder” in its timeslot.

ABC on Sunday said good-bye to “Galavant” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 4.37 million viewers overall) and “Resurrection” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.73 million viewers overall), neither of which was able to make much of a case for renewal. Similarly, cooking competition “The Taste” went out on simmer Thursday (0.8/2 in 18-49, 3.06 million) as the net readies the return of its “TGIT” drama lineup this week.

Leading NBC for the week were two programs from the Donald Trump universe: Sunday’s “Miss Universe Pageant” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 7.68 million viewers overall) and Monday’s “Celebrity Apprentice” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 6.51 million viewers overall), with the former dominating its competition in 18-49 and hitting five-year highs.

Meanwhile, the Spanish-language telecast of the pageant on Telemundo set record highs (0.9 rating in 18-49, 2.27 million viewers overall), nearly doubling the show’s 2013 totals.

At CW, “Jane the Virgin” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 1.39 million viewers overall) had its best scores yet in adults 18-34 (0.6/2) and women 18-34 (0.9/3) and its second largest overall audience as the show returned from a monthlong hiatus; it also was coming off a Golden Globe win the night before for Gina Rodriguez for best actress in a comedy.

Univision moved up to No. 2 in adults 18-34 for the week (and was up a bit vs. the same frame a year ago), thanks to a good start for 10 p.m. novela “Que Te Perdone” (May God Forgive You), which averaged a 1.1 rating in 18-49, a 1.0 in adults 18-34 and 2.8 million viewers overall across the week.

The season finale of FX’s “American Horror Story” was the week’s No. 1 cable program in 18-49 (1.6/5) and total viewers (6.6 million), edging out in the demo firstrun broadcast dramas in its Wednesday timeslot: “Chicago PD” and “Stalker.”

The net’s “Justified” came out of the gate slowly in its final season, with Tuesday’s premiere (0.6 in 18-49, 2.17 million viewers overall) down more than 40% from last year; it fared well as expected in L+3, doubling its demo delivery (to 1.2) and adding about 85% more total viewers (to about 4 million).

History’s six-hour miniseries “Sons of Liberty” opened to OK but underwhelming numbers Sunday (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.29 million viewers overall), especially considering the network set the scripted bar so high with previous programs, including “Hatfields and McCoys.” According to Nielsen, it was Sunday’s most tweeted-about scripted program (broadcast or cable).

At Lifetime, the second-season premiere of docuseries “Bring It” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.82 million viewers overall) was about 80% bigger than the series premiere of last year and stood as the network’s top-rated Friday primetime telecast in 11 years in numerous categories. For all of cable, it was Friday’s No. 1 program in women 18-49 (1.1/3).

 

WEEKLY PRIMETIME NETWORK RANKINGS
(Jan. 19-25, 2015 – Live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49 (rating/share)
Fox                  1.8/6
CBS                 1.4/4
NBC                 1.3/4
UNI                   1.2/4
ABC                 1.1/3
TBS                  0.8/2
CW                   0.7/2
FX                    0.7/2
USA                 0.6/2
Discovery          0.6/1

Total Viewers (in millions)
CBS                8.52
Fox                 5.42
NBC                5.24
ABC                4.48
UNI                  2.90
USA                2.07
TBS                1.99
CW                 1.86
TNT                 1.84
FX                   1.81

 

WEEKLY PRIMETIME PROGRAM RANKINGS
(Jan. 19-25, 2015; Live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49 (rating/share)
1.  Empire (Fox), 4.4/13
2.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 3.4/11
3.  NFL Pro Bowl (ESPN), 3.2/9
4.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 2.8/9
5.  The Big Bang Theory-r (CBS), 2.4/8
6.  Mom (CBS), 2.4/8
7.  Scorpion (CBS), 2.3/6
8.  Two and a Half Men (CBS), 2.2/7
8.  2 Broke Girls (CBS), 2.2/7
8.  Gotham (Fox), 2.2/7
11.  Mike & Molly (CBS), 2.1/6
11.  The Bachelor (ABC), 2.1/6
13.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 2.0/6
13.  Miss Universe Pageant (NBC), 2.0/6
15.  Backstrom (Fox), 1.9/6
15.  The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC), 1.9/5
17.  MasterChef Junior (Fox), 1.8/6
17.  The Big Bang Theory-r (CBS), 1.8/5
19.  America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC), 1.7/5
20.  American Horror Story (FX), 1.6/5
20.  Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo), 1.6/4
20.  Family Guy (Fox), 1.6/4

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  Scorpion (CBS), 12.08
2.  NCIS-r (CBS), 11.98
3.  American Idol-Wednesday (Fox), 11.76
4.  The Big Bang Theory-r (CBS), 11.52
5.  Empire (Fox), 11.07
6.  Mom (CBS), 11.05
7.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 10.65
8.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 10.29
9.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 9.65
10.  The Mentalist (CBS), 9.60
11.  Two and a Half Men (CBS), 9.31
12.  Mike & Molly (CBS), 9.22
13.  60 Minutes (CBS), 9.21
14.  2 Broke Girls (CBS), 8.86
15.  Blue Bloods (CBS), 8.80
15.  Undercover Boss-Sunday (CBS), 8.80
17.  NFL Pro Bowl (ESPN), 8.77
18.  Undercover Boss (CBS), 8.42
19.  CSI (CBS), 8.30
20.  Elementary (CBS), 8.29