'Empire' By the Numbers - The Good News and the Bad News

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April 20th 2017

empire-episode-3-recap "Empire"

If you're a devoted fan of the Fox TV series "Empire", which kicked off its third season two weeks ago, there's good news in terms of ratings, but there's also some bad news as well.

The good news is that, the show is still far and away the most watched broadcast network series, pulling a 12 share with 9.6 million viewers for its last episode. That topped the second most watched show, CBS' "Survivor", which was No. 2 with 9.2 million; and their "Criminal Minds" series, which airs opposite "Empire", came in third with 8.9 million.


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However, there's also some bad news; last Wednesdays ratings and viewership for "Empire" were down 12% from the previous week's third season premiere. But even worse than that is the fact that, last week's 9.6 million viewers is a drop of almost 50% from the 18 million viewers who watched the show's second season premiere episode a year ago. And throughout the second season, the series experienced a drop in viewership, down to an average of 11 million by the season's end.

Now ratings for season three so far are showing that the number of people watching the show continues to slip, despite the fact that it's still the most watched network series on Wednesday nights.

While that doesn't sound too good, keep in mind that the whole television landscape has radically charged. Twenty years ago, a show getting 9-10 million viewers per episode would be immediately canceled. And before the advent of cable TV, or even Netflix, Hulu and other TV on demand services, the internet and video games, a network show had to pull in at least 20 million viewers just be considered even a middling success.


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In 2016, networks probably long for the good old days of a middling hit getting 20 million viewers. Those days are now more of a dream, and TV executives are more than happy to have 9 million viewers watching their shows, and be grateful for it. Certainly, Fox is likely pleased with what "Empire" is drawing despite the fact it's no longer the powerhouse that it once was.

The big challenge is for the network, and for creator and executive producer Lee Daniels, to keep ratings and viewership from slipping even further. But if that happens and, there might be some panic at Fox TV HQ, and "Empire's" third season could be its last, or close to it.

by Sergio Mims on April 20th 2017
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