'Empire' Renewed for Season 3 at Fox

Empire S02E10 Still - H 2015
Chuck Hodes/FOX

Empire S02E10 Still - H 2015

Empire won't be drip-dropping off the schedule anytime soon.

Fox on Friday handed out an early season-three renewal to the hip-hop drama at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.

The order comes almost a year to the day after the series earned a second-season pickup at Fox's last winter press tour presentation, which came just weeks into the show's first run. 

It's unclear how many episodes season three will entail. Empire's breakout freshman season spanned just 12 episodes. But after the stunning ratings success of the drama, Fox upped season two to 18 episodes, which has been split into two parts. After a three-month hiatus, Empire is set to return with new episodes on Wednesday, March 30.

While there has been some criticism about the pacing of the second season, the show continues to deliver impressive ratings. Empire ranks as the top series on broadcast television among adults 18-49. The fall finale drew a 6.6 in live-plus-seven-day ratings.

Fox co-CEO and chairman Gary Newman on Friday addressed critics' concerns. "I think that if that show is off creatively, we would like all of our shows to be off creatively," he said, referring to Empire's continued ratings strength. "The audience, I don’t think, shares the feeling that some of the critics have had about the storytelling."

Empire was the only broadcast series to compete for best drama honors at Sunday's Golden Globes. Although the show lost to a rookie, USA's Mr. Robot, Empire's Taraji P. Henson took home the Globe for best actress in a drama series.

The renewal comes as Fox looks to expand its relationship with co-creator Lee Daniels. The director also is working on a new pilot about an Atlanta-based girl group for the network. Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt lead the cast, which will include several newcomers.

Daniels exec produces Empire with co-creator Danny Strong, showrunner Ilene Chaiken, Francie Calfo and Brian Grazer. The series is produced by 20th TV. 

Empire joins previously renewed Fox animated series The Simpsons and Bob's Burgers, as well as horror-comedy anthology Scream Queens, which received a second-season pickup Friday at TCA.