UPDATE, 9:48AM: The final numbers are in and Empire gone up again. Nielsen numbers have the 8 – 10 PM finale of the Fox drama snagging a 6.5 rating among adults 18-49 and 16.7 million total viewers. First of all, that’s a record for the TV ratings rule breaking series and up 71% and 69% respectively from the results of the show’s debut back on January 7. Secondly, compared to the series’ March 11 1-hour show that’s a 12% rise in both categories. It’s a 2% bop up from earlier demo numbers this morning and a 1% rise viewershipwise. While still behind the March 15 airing of AMC’s The Walking Dead, Empire has now solidly taken the lead among shows on the Big 4 among adults 18-49 this season. Last night’s airing of the hip hop family drama delivered the best first season result any new series on any broadcast network has had since the Shonda Rhimes created Grey’s Anatomy ended its debut cycle on ABC in 2005.
Comparing time slot to time slot, the 6.9 rating of the 9 PM hour of Empire‘s finale last night was up 82% in the key demo over its premiere episode. The 9 PM hour of last night’s Empire was up 19% from its March 11 show among the 18-49s. It is also the best any regular scheduled drama has done on the Big 4 since the 7.2/17 that CSI pulled in on October 9, 2008. The finale took Fox to the height of the best night any of the nets have done with regularly scheduled programming since the American Idol premiere on January 18, 2012.
PREVIOUS, 8:04 AM: There were resolutions, successions, music and arrests on the 2-hour Season 1 ender of the hip hop drama last night. And for the 10th week in a row since its January 7 debut, Fox’s Empire (6.4/20) hit a brand new viewership high of 16.5 million. That’s up 10% from the 14.90 million that the Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Ilene Chaiken, Francie Calfo and Brian Glazer EP’d series drew on March 11. Empire also had another new record among adults 18-49 with a 10% rise over last week’s 5.8/17, which was tied with the drama’s March 4 show for the previous all time high. In early numbers, the 8 – 10 PM finale was also up an amazing 68% jump over the 18-49 rating of its debut and rose 67% over the 9.90 million who tuned in for that first show of the 12-episode season. Don’t be surprised if those Empire numbers are adjusted in later ratings – they commonly have been. As it is Fox easily won the night among the demo and in total viewers with its best Wednesday result since the American Idol finale of May 23, 2012. That’s also the highest rated night on any of the Big 4 with regular programming since that May 2012.
In its usual 9 PM slot, Empire pulled in a 6.8/21 and 17.5 million total viewers. That’s a 17% demo and viewership rise over last week. The first hour of the show got a 6.0/20 rating with 15.577 million viewers. Put that in perspective, that’s the highest rated finale a new series has had since the 9.8/24 that Grey’s Anatomy got for ABC back on May 22, 2005 – a very different era in TV, I might add. No new show has ended its first season with more total viewers since the 16.8 million that The Mentalist got for CBS in 2009 – and that could change once final Empire numbers come in.
Also Empire has grown its total audience every week since it hit the air and saw its demo rating slip only once over its entire first season – that slip was in its fourth week show of January 28 when the show got a 4.3, down a tenth from the 4.4 of the week before. Empire‘s February 4 broadcast garnered a 4.6 and the series has moved on up every week since with the last two weeks being even at a 5.8. With those strong Live + Same Day results plus a very strong digital afterlife on DVR and streaming and now ahead of The Big Bang Theory, Empire will end its season as the top series demowise on the Big 4 and just behind AMC’s blockbuster The Walking Dead on all of TV.
Speaking of which, the March 15 episode of the zombie apocalypse series based on the Robert Kirkman created comics got a 7.0 among the 18-49s. The all time high for The Walking Dead was its Season 5 premiere on October 12 last year when the AMC series got a 8.7 rating among adults 18-49 with a total viewership of 17.3 million. The Empire finale did top the 13.8 million total viewership that this week’s WD had.
NBC was all encores last night while ABC’s only original was the Diane Sawyer hosted 20/20: The Untold Story Of The Sound Of Music (1.4/5) special. The look at the classic pic tied for the top spot in the time slot and was up 16% among the demo from the last Sawyer hosted 20/20 special of February 13. Last night’s special was up 133% from the repeat of American Crime’s debut that ABC played at 10 PM last week. With an audience of 7.3 million, last night’s special was the most watched 20/20 this season so far.
Going head-to-head with the Empire finale, CBS’ Survivor (2.2/7) did not take a hit from last week. The 2-hour version of the veteran reality show was even with its 1-hour March 11 show when it took on American Idol. The same could not be said of lead-out CSI Cyber (1.4/4), which was down 18% from its March 11 show. Facing that double does of Empire, the CW’s Arrow (0.8/3) and the time slot debut of Supernatural (0.7/2) fell 27% and 13% from their respective last originals of February 25 and February 17.