Back with more demo muscle than ever before for its Season 2 debut, the Lee Daniels and Danny Strong co-created drama has hit platinum in delayed viewing. In Live + 3 ratings, the September 23 premiere of Empire scored a 8.7/27 among adults 18-49 and 20.8 million total viewers. That’s a high for the hit show.

Compared to the show’s all-time high for the 2-hour Season 1 finale on March 18, the Empire S2 debut rose 4% in the demo to establish a new record. In total audience, the S2 premiere was basically even with the S1 finale with just a 1.4% difference between the two in favor of the March 18 show. If you compare the 9-10 PM hour of both the S2 premiere and the 8-10 PM S1 finale (8.8) they are basically even in the demo with a 1% difference.

Revealing more of how its valued audience actually watch TV, the Live + 3 results for the S2 debut are also up a strong 30% from the 6.7 rating among the key demo and up 28% from the total viewership of 16.18 million that the Fox blockbuster drew in Live + Same Day results. The 3-days of delayed viewing result for the S2 premiere are also up 64% from the Live+3 demo rating of Empire’s Season 1 debut on January 7. Viewershipwise, Empire S2’s opener rose 59% over the 13.1 million that it got in Live+3 for Empire S1’s opener. (UPDATE, 8:51 AM: Fox has sent out the Live + 3 numbers and actually pegged the Season 2 debut of Empire has getting 22.5 million viewers. How did they have go up from the 20.8 million of the Live + 3 I reported earlier? Well, Fox’s numbers include streaming on FOX NOW and on Hulu – another sign the true multi-platform nature of contemporary consumer TV consumption.)

So far this season, Empire sits on the Live +3 throne, with the September 21 debut of the latest season of The Big Bang Theory in second place. The Empire premiere was up 36% in the demo over the 6.4 Live + 3 18-49 results of the CBS comedy. Blockbuster to blockbuster, in Live + 3 numbers, demo results for the Season 2 debut of Empire was even with the Live + SD Season 5 cable record busting debut of The Walking Dead on AMC last October 12.  The 18-49 rating for TWD S5’s debut went up to a massive and new record shattering 11.7 in Live + 3. TWD returns for its sixth season on October 11.

RosewoodAlso getting a Live + 3 lift for Fox was Empire lead-in Rosewood, which pulled a 2.8/10 among the demo and 8.98 million in viewership in the DVR results. The September 23  8-9 PM debuting Rosewood saw a 17% jump over its Live+SD 18-49 rating and a 19% rise in viewership.

The bulk of the rest of Wednesday night on the Big 4 was return premieres, not freshman debuts.

Still, ABC had a soaring Live + 3 note for the 10 PM season opener of Nashville. The country drama got a 2.1, a 75% rise over its Live +SD demo result and the biggest gain of any show on Wednesday. With delayed viewing, ABC’s night started with The Middle, which drew a 2.8 in Live + 3 and is up 33% from its Live + SD demo rating. The second highest Live + 3 rated show after Empire on September 23 was Modern Family, which got a 4.9 and rose 53% from its Live + SD number. Black-ish rose 46% to a 3.5 and The Goldbergs got a 3.3, up 38%.

On NBC, The Mysteries of Laura (1.58) was up 30% from its Live + SD while Law & Order: SVU (2.6) went up 44%. CBS’s only debut of the night was an 8 – 9:30 PM  Survivor, which now partially facing Empire, got a 3.1 in Live + 3 – up 24% from its Live+ SD.