Snapshot: New series premiere – Fox’s Rosewood (2.4 in adults 18-49); Empire (6.7 in finals, after a 0.2 upward adjustment) leads returning series debuts, joined by ABC’s The Middle and The Goldbergs as the only series so far not to post season-to-season declines. UPDATE: Survivor, Modern Family and Law and Order: SVU were each adjusted up .1 in the finals; Nashville was adjusted down .1.
Fox was the big ratings story last night as its drama Empire continued to defy broadcast ratings gravity and opened its second season with a massive 6.7 rating in adults 18-49 and 16.2 million viewers in the finals (up from a 6.5 and 16.0 in the fast nationals). While most returning series have been down from their last-season premieres this fall, Empire soared +76% vs. its series debut last January, the highest Season 1-Season 2 percentage gain for a scripted series since Fox’s House a decade ago (2004-2005). The Empire opener matched the show’s two-hour Season 1 finale and topped every episode to date except for the 9-10 PM portion of the finale, which surged to a 6.9 demo rating. Empire also set a social media record, generating 1.3 million tweets during last night’s telecast to rank as #1 most Tweeted one hour broadcast drama series ever. Even with the big momentum from last season, Fox didn’t leave things to chance with Empire. The big Season 2 debut ratings followed one of the largest promo campaigns for a second-year show that involved a ton of outdoor and digital ads and the cast and executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Brian Grazer doing a slew of events, magazine stories and appearances, including a lavish Season 2 premiere in New York.
The halo effect Fox brass had been hoping for when they scheduled new drama Rosewood in front of juggernaut Empire worked. The Morris Chestnut-starring procedural opened with a solid 2.4 rating among adults 18-49 and 7.4 million viewers. The show received a fraction of the marketing push that Fox gave to Scream Queens, mostly betting on Chestnut’s appeal in outdoor advertising, but Rosewood did far better than the premieres of both the horror comedy and another heavily promoted new Fox series, Minority Report. Its association with Empire likely helped, as probably did its appeal to African American viewers. As the record ratings for Tyler Perry’s The Haves And The Have Nots the night before also indicated, that is a segment of the audience that watches a lot of TV and tends to do a lot of it live, boosting Live+Same Day deliveries networks cover.
There were no other new series debuts last night, with most returning shows following the same ratings pattern: down from last fall’s premiere, but up from their May finale.
The two exceptions were ABC’s The Middle (2.1) and The Goldbergs (2.4), which both tied last season’s debuts, an impressive hold given the Live+SD attrition most returning series have been experiencing because of TV viewing’s continuous shift to DVR and multi-platform consumption.
ABC’s Modern Family (3.1) was down -18% from last season’s premiere, while Black-ish (2.4) was down -27% from last season’s debut when the two comedies did not have to face Empire. Nashville (1.3) was down a tenth. All ABC series were up double-digits from their season finales.
Similarly, NBC’s Mysteries Of Laura (1.2) and Law & Order: SVU (1.7) were down from last fall’s premieres (by -40% and -23%, respectively) but up vs. the finales.
On CBS, Survivor (2.4) was down -14% from last fall’s premiere, while Big Brother (2.2) was down -15% from last year’s finale. (Like the ABC 9-10 PM comedies, the 90-minute Survivor debut and Big Brother closer did not have Empire as competition last September while they each aired portions against the drama’s premiere this year.)