TV Ratings: 'Empire' Still Massive, Tops Premiere Week in Near-Record Return

Emp Season 2 - H 2015
Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FOX

All hail the king. While premiere week is generally about seeing which new broadcast series fly (or fizzle), no new show is courting as much interest from ratings-watchers as Empire. Fox's golden goose, the top-rated series last season, returned on Wednesday night. And it delivered.

The one-hour episode easily outperformed everything else on TV last night — and this week, if you exclude football — with an average 6.7 rating among adults 18-49 and 16 million viewers. Compared to previous episodes, that's only eclipsed by the March finale as the highest-rated ever. It's a much-needed dose of good news for Fox. The No. 4 network followed Sunday's all-time low Emmy ratings with a soft premiere for Minority Report and a disappointing start for Scream Queens.

Advertisers are betting big on Empire's new season. In The Hollywood Reporter's recent cover story on the drama, the asking price for a 30-second spot in the Sept. 23 premiere was revealed to be a staggering $750,000. And the rest of the season will see the same amount of time going for as much as $600,000. (That's in the range of peak American Idol.)

Empire's first-season performance was basically without precedent in the modern TV landscape. Growing its audience every week for 12 weeks, the show broke record after record. Its January opener fetched an impressive 3.8 rating in the key demo and 9.9 million viewers, trouncing its American Idol lead-in, and its finale raked in a jaw-dropping 6.9 rating with adults 18-49 and 17.6 million viewers.

And all of that was before time-shifting. A bigger draw for live audiences, Empire closed out the TV season averaging a 7.1 rating among adults 18-49 and 17.3 million viewers in live-plus-7 data. Multiplatform data is more difficult to account for, but Fox brass have been vocal about the show's continued traction among streamers over the summer.

Fox's good news extended to 8 p.m., where one of its debuts finally got some traction. Likely thanks in some part to its Empire adjacency, Rosewood opened with a 2.4 rating among adults 18-49 and 7.4 million viewers.

Keeping up with the week's trend of fatigue in live-plus-same-day numbers, many returning shows were down from their fall premieres last year. CBS, earning second-place status to Fox in the key demo, premiered Survivor to a 2.4 rating in the key demo. The show was off just three-tenths of a point from the comparable outing last year ahead of the two-hour Big Brother finale (2.2 adults).

ABC saw 8 p.m. comedies The Middle (2.1 adults) and The Goldbergs (2.4 adults) hold their own — while Modern Family predictably dipped at the top of its seventh season. The flagship earned a 3.1 rating among adults 18-49, making it the second-highest-rated series of the night, though down seven-tenths of a point from last fall's return. Black-ish, nabbing a 2.4 rating in the key demo, was off by the same measure. Still, the consistency of ABC's two-hour comedy block, an increasingly rare sight on the broadcast landscape, should not be discounted — especially in the face of Empire.

The Mysteries of Laura earned a 1.2 rating in the key demo upon its return to NBC, off eight-tenths of a point from last year's debut. (That episode did not air at 8 p.m.) Dick Wolf's annuity, Law & Order: SVU, earned a 1.7 rating with adults 18-49 — off half of a point from fall 2014.