UPDATED: This is shaping up to be the season in which TV programming appealing to black audiences is hitting mainstream in a big way. Last night, Empire, a hip-hop family saga from The Butler‘s Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and producer Brian Grazer, opened with a 3.8 rating among adults 18-49 and 9.9 million viewers, according to specially ordered time zone-adjusted numbers by Fox. That is the highest new season opener this season in the demo, tying the other new drama with a black lead, ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder starring Viola Davis (3.8, 14.1 million). The highest-rated new comedy series this season is ABC’s Black-ish, about a black family. And Empire’s strong opening comes a day after Tyler Perry’s The Haves And Have Nots posted a new season-premiere high for OWN with 3.22 million viewers.
Empire marked Fox’s highest-rated series debut in three years, since Touch in January 2012. This is was great news for Fox, giving it a second strong opener this season besides fall drama Gotham. Empire built in onto its 18-49 lead-in, the Season 14 premiere of American Idol (3.2, 11.2 million), which was down -30% in the demo and -25% in viewers from last year to new premiere lows. While a decline is not a surprise, it is worth noting that last night’s debut was hourlong in the 8-9 PM slot while previous openers, including last year, were two-hour. Idol still managed to go up vs. its Season 13 finale (2.6, 10.5 million). Fox won the night in 18-49 with its highest rated Wednesday entertainment programming in nearly a year.
On CBS, The People’s Choice Awards (1.8, 8.6 million) from 9-11 PM were down 25% in the demo from last year. Their lead-in, the time-slot premiere of The Mentalist (1.3), was down a tenth from its most recent airing on Sunday.
At ABC, sophomore The Goldbergs (2.5, 7.8 million), with a New Kids on the Block-themed episode, was up +14% in the demo and +4% in viewers from its last original to log its second-highest ratings ever. It again built on its lead-in, The Middle (2.3, 8.5 million), in 18-49. The 8 PM anchor, featuring a guest appearance by Kirstie Alley, was up +5% in 18-49 and total viewers from its last original to hit season highs.
Modern Family (3.2, 9.2 million) also was up slightly (+3% in 18-49) from its last airing, while Black-ish (2.1) seems to have been affected by the new competition in the hour from Empire, also about a black family, down -9% from its last original to tie a low.
NBC’s entire Wednesday lineup was up from their last outings. The Mysteries Of Laura (1.3) was up +8%, Law & Order: SVU (1.7) was up +21%, and Chicago P.D. was up +7%.