'Empire' Drops 20% in Week Two, But Cookie's Still a Monster

Demo Drop Halts Growth Trend

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Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon in 'Empire.'
Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon in 'Empire.' Credit: Chuck Hodes/FOX
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After returning to near-record ratings a week ago, "Empire" on Wednesday night finally succumbed to the gravitational pull that asserts its influence over all broadcast TV shows. The second installment of Fox's hip-hopera took a bit of a tumble, shedding approximately 2.5 million viewers and dropping nearly 20% of its premiere-episode adults 18-to-49.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, "Empire" averaged a 5.5 in the all-important demo, which marked an 18% drop from the preliminary 6.7 notched by the season premiere.

For what it's worth, most shows tend to drop between 15% and 20% between their first and second broadcasts. Some of those lost deliveries may be recaptured by time-shifting, but the only views likely to have an impact on ratings guarantees are in VOD or other streaming platforms that do not allow for skipping commercials.

While the "Empire" slippage is almost wholly irrelevant -- its nearest competitor, ABC's "Modern Family," managed to eke out a 3.0 in the dollar demo -- it does put an end to any talk that the show might repeat its unprecedented growth streak of a year ago. Since the Nielsen People Meters era began in 1991, no broadcast TV show had ever demonstrated uninterrupted weekly ratings growth… until "Empire" began subverting the laws of physics last winter.

As expected, "Empire" on Wednesday still ran the table in all relevant demos, putting up a staggering 6.8 rating among women 18-to-49, a 7.4 with women in the 25-to-54 set, and a 4.8 among adults 18-to-34. The show also ran away with each and every male demo.

In terms of the most relevant ratings stats, we should have first look at the C3 currency data during the week of Oct. 12. "Empire" last season was one of those rare shows that showed meteoric growth upon application of the commercial deliveries, rising from a 5.1 season average in live-same-day to a 5.9 in C3.

Elsewhere, ratings continued their downward trend, as only ABC's 8 p.m. anchor "The Middle" gained ground versus its premiere numbers. The genial family comedy improved 5% to a 2.2.

At 10 p.m., CBS rolled out its second new drama of the 2015-16 season to somewhat mixed results. On the one hand, "Code Black" put up characteristically strong reach numbers, as 8.58 million viewers sampled the premiere. But as was the case with fellow newcomer "Limitless," "Code Black" drew tepid results in key demos, averaging a 1.5 among adults 18 to 48 and a 2.1 in CBS's target age group, adults 25 to 54. In the Tuesday 10 p.m. slot, "Limitless" premiered to a 2.6 in the guaranteed demo, which it would go on to match in week two.

With 10 days of seasonal data on the books, only one new 10 p.m. show has bowed to north of a 2.0 rating. NBC's "Blindspot" last week delivered a robust 3.1 in the demo before slipping to a 2.6 on Monday night. ABC's "Quantico" bowed to a 1.9 in its Sunday 10 p.m. slot, matching the "Limitless" premiere, while NBC's "The Player" stumbled out of the gates last Thursday to a 1.2.

The final hour of prime time has proven to be a challenge for the three broadcasters (ABC, CBS, NBC) that program the slot, as viewers increasingly are using the time to catch up on their recorded shows. So much playback happens at 10 p.m. that researchers have crowned the DVR the top-rated "network" in the hour.

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