Fox’s “Empire” remains king, even if the viewing audiences it commands has shrunk a little. The midseason return of Cookie Lyon notched a 2.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic and an average audience of 7.89 million in Nielsen’s preliminary fast national ratings, right around where it left off in December (2.7 demo rating, 7.58 million viewers).
“Empire” lead-in “Shots Fired,” though, got off to a bit of a slow start, drawing a 1.1 demo rating and 4.67 million viewers. While a 1.1 demo rating isn’t even close to the worst debut an hourlong series has had this TV season, the “Shots Fired” premiere adds another data point to an emerging trend.
Shows like “Shots Fired” and ABC’s “American Crime” and “When We Rise” have made a splash in the industry by daring to tell complex, diverse, politically charged stories about serious issues facing American society on broadcast television, but viewers just don’t seem to be flocking to them: “Shots Fired” bowed below former slot occupants “Lethal Weapon” and “Star” (which, in its timeslot debut, brought in a 1.6 demo rating and 4.72 million viewers). “American Crime” is rounding up to a 0.5 demo rating and averaging 2.29 million viewers in its third season, a drop of more than 40% from the previous installment in the demo, despite being heralded as broadcast’s version of “The Wire.” Dustin Lance Black miniseries about the LGBT civil rights movement “When We Rise” — about which Variety‘s Sonia Saraiya wrote, “The mere existence of ‘When We Rise‘ is almost virtue enough” — averaged a 0.5 demo rating and an audience of 2.26 million for its eight parts. These series do see ratings lifts thanks to delayed viewing, but, in ABC’s case, even increases of 100% put them below what one generally expects from most broadcast series.
CBS’ “Survivor” brought in a 1.7 rating in the demo and 7.9 million viewers, edging out the total audience of “Empire” by a mere 1,000 viewers to win that particular crown. (The numbers you see here are rounded to the second decimal place.) “Criminal Minds” held steady with a 1.3 in the demo and 7.39 million viewers. “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” brought in a 0.8 and 4.83 million viewers.
NBC’s “Blindspot” came in with a 0.9 demo rating and 4.27 million viewers. “Law & Order: SVU” dipped to a 1.1 and 5.01 million viewers. “Chicago P.D.” drew a 1.2 in the demo and 6.29 million viewers.
ABC’s Wednesday comedy block was in repeats, which didn’t quite help “Designated Survivor.” The Kiefer Sutherland-led drama drew a 1.1 demo rating, compared to last week’s 1.3, and an audience of 5.17 million.
The CW’s “Arrow” held steady with a 0.5 rating in the demo and 1.4 million viewers. “The 100” dipped slightly to a 0.3 and 903,000 viewers.
As a reminder, daily ratings fluctuations tend to amount to mere quantum foam, and many of these series will see lifts of 50% or more once viewing within three and seven days is counted. However, most of those gains won’t translate to the ratings guarantees networks make advertisers.