The season finale of Fox’s monster rookie drama “Empire” came within a tick of catching AMC’s “The Walking Dead” as primetime’s biggest draw among young adults last week but it was enough to put the network on top.

Fox won outright in adults 18-49 for the first time in two months, averaging a 1.8 rating/6 share in Nielsen’s “live plus same-day” estimates for the week of March 16-22. It was followed by the closely bunched CBS (1.5/5), NBC (1.4/5) and ABC (1.4/4).

CBS and Fox tied for the lead among adults 25-54 (2.0/7) while the Eye won easily in total viewers (7.2 million to 6.2 million for runner-up ABC).

At Fox, “Empire” capped its amazing first season by continuing its streak of growing audience with each episode since its Jan. 7 premiere and standing as the week’s most-watched show for the first time.  It actually claimed the top two spots because Fox broke out the “Empire” finale into two separate hours: a special 8 p.m. telecast (6.1/21, 15.82 million viewers overall) and its finale in its regular 9 p.m. timeslot (6.9/21 in 18-49, 17.62 million viewers overall).

In “live+3” estimates from Nielsen, the hour finale of “Empire” grew to 21.92 million and an 8.8 rating in 18-49. This is the highest demo rating for the conclusion of a first-year scripted series in the 10 years since ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” wrapped its first season in the spring of 2005 (9.8).

NBC, whose “The Voice” accounted for two of the week’s top five programs, saw decent starts for Tuesday comedies “Undateable” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 6.43 million viewers overall) and “One Big Happy” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 5.47 million viewers overall), which performed better than all but one week of “Marry Me” and “About a Boy” earlier this season. Thursday’s “The Slap” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 3.18 million viewers overall) remained low but edged up behind a rising “The Blacklist” (1.8/6 in 18-49, 8.64 million viewers overall).

Among other series to premiere in the last couple of months, the Sunday pair of Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 4.55 million viewers overall at 9 and 1.7/4 in 18-49, 4.23 million viewers overall at 9:30) and  ABC’s “Secrets and Lies” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.56 million viewers overall) grew in their fourth weeks, with the latter matching its premiere score.

ABC didn’t fare as well Thursday with “American Crime” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 5.54 million viewers overall), which was down 0.2 from the previous week and 0.8 below its March 5 premiere. The show has garnered strong critical support but audiences haven’t taken to the drama about a racially charged murder and the subsequent trial.

CBS newcomer “CSI: Cyber,” airing behind “Survivor” instead of the more compatible “Criminal Minds” as it had for its first two airings, dropped 0.3 in its third week (1.4/5 in 18-49, 7.96 million viewers overall). And Sunday’s “Battle Creek” remained low (0.8/3 in 18-49, 6.05 million viewers overall) though it has been pretty steady the last three weeks.

Also of note during the week was the exit of one vet (Fox’s “Glee”) and the return of another (ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars”). “Glee” failed to see any bounce as it wrapped its five-season run, and actually declined in its second of two Friday hours (1.8 to 1.7 in 18-49 and 2.69 million to 2.54 million in total viewers), while “Dancing” was down about 15% in the demo and 1 million total viewers from its year-ago bow.

Remaining strong in the cable world last week were AMC’s Sunday pair of “The Walking Dead” (7.0/20 in 18-49, 13.76 million viewers overall) and “Talking Dead” (2.9/9 in 18-49, 6.02 million viewers overall). Only “Walking Dead,” “Empire” and “The Voice” rated higher in 18-49 last week than the discussion show about the zombie drama. And Monday’s “Better Call Saul” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 2.67 million viewers overall) has been very steady in the same-night numbers and typically sees its ratings more than double with just three days of DVR playback.

E! had good news for its first scripted original series, “The Royals,” which grew 20% in 18-49 rating in its second week (0.60 vs. 0.50) even while it lost a bit in total viewers (1.32 million vs. 1.41 million for the premiere). In  Live+3 estimates for the premiere, “Royals” averaged 2.19 million viewers, including 1.04 million adults 18-49 (0.82 rating).  It ranks as the calendar year’s No. 2-rated series premiere in key women demos, behind only AMC’s “Better Call Saul.”

Also in L+3, ABC Family’s recently renewed “Baby Daddy” headed into its spring hiatus by spiking to a nine-week high in women 18-34 (393,000/1.2 rating) and a seven-week high in adults 18-34 (507,000/0.8 rating). On average during the first half of its fourth season, the comedy stood as cable’s No. 1 Wednesday series in the 8:30 p.m. half-hour in both women 18-34 and females 12-34.


(Week of March 16-22 — Live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49
Fox                           1.8/6
CBS                          1.5/5
NBC                          1.4/5
ABC                           1.4/4
Univision                     1.0/3
TNT                            0.8/2
AMC                           0.8/2
TBS                            0.7/2
CW                            0.6/2
USA                           0.6/2

Total Viewers (in millions)
CBS                           7.22
ABC                           6.25
NBC                           6.06
Fox                            5.33
Univision                     2.83
TNT                            2.34
TBS                           2.25
Fox News                  1.85
USA                          1.80
AMC                         1.79

(Week of March 16-22, 2015 — Live plus same-day)

Adults 18-49 (rating/share)
1.  The Walking Dead (AMC), 7.0/19
2.  Empire (Fox), 6.9/21
3.  Empire-8 p.m. (Fox), 6.1/21
4.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 3.4/11
5.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 3.2/11
6.  Talking Dead (AMC), 2.9/7
7.  Scandal (ABC), 2.4/7
8.  Survivor (CBS), 2.3/7
9.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 2.1/7
9.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 2.1/7
11.  Mike & Molly (CBS), 2.0/6
12.  Undateable (NBC), 1.9/6
12.  Once Upon a Time (ABC), 1.9/6
12.  The Last Man on Earth, 9 p.m. (Fox), 1.9/5
15.  The Blacklist (NBC), 1.8/6
15.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 1.8/6
15.  Shark Tank (ABC), 1.8/6
15.  College basketball, Thursday: Hampton-Kentucky (CBS), 1.8/6
19.  The Big Bang Theory, Monday-r (CBS), 1.7/6
19.  60 Minutes (CBS), 1.7/6
19.  The Last Man on Earth (Fox), 1.7/4

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  Empire-9 p.m. (Fox), 17.62
2.  Empire-8 p.m. (Fox), 15.82
3.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 14.16
4.  The Walking Dead (AMC), 13.86
5.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 12.82
6.  Voice-Monday (NBC), 12.56
7.  60 Minutes (CBS), 11.58
8.  Madam Secretary (CBS), 10.79
9.  NCIS-r (CBS), 10.00
10.  Survivor (CBS), 9.62
11.  NCIS: New Orleans-r (CBS), 9.49
12.  Castle (ABC), 8.94
13.  The Blacklist (NBC), 8.64
14.  Mike & Molly (CBS), 8.57
15.  American Idol-Thursday (Fox), 8.51
16.  The Good Wife (CBS), 8.43
17.  The Big Bang Theory, Monday-r (CBS), 8.40
18.  CSI: Cyber (CBS), 7.96
19.  Scandal (ABC), 7.79
20.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 7.73