"Empire" is back and riding high on the ratings charts.
The second season of the hip-hop music-driven Lyon family saga averaged 16 million viewers when it premiered at 9 p.m. Wednesday, 62% above the 9.9 million the series scored for its Jan. 11 debut on Fox, according to preliminary data from Nielsen.
The audience was within range of the March 18 season finale, which averaged 17.6 million viewers. "Empire" had a solid start when it debuted in January, but what made it a television juggernaut was its week-to-week ratings growth, which peaked with its finale.
Among viewers 18 to 49, the demographic group favored by advertisers, the second season premiere of "Empire" averaged a 6.5 rating and 20% share of that audience, a few tenths of a rating point below the 6.9 rating delivered in the finale, but 71% higher than the premiere.
No other program on the night even approached the ratings of "Empire." The next highest was the season premiere of "Survivor," which averaged 9.6 million on CBS from 8 to 9:30 p.m.
The season premiere of ABC's "Modern Family" was the closest competitor in the 18 to 49 demographic, with a 3.1 rating. But the top-rated comedy was down 18% from its season premiere of a year ago, when it did not have to go head to head with "Empire."
The anticipation of "Empire" helped the premiere of the new Fox police drama "Rosewood," which preceded it at 8 p.m. The new program that stars Morris Chestnut as a frequently shirtless, crime-solving pathologist averaged 7.3 million viewers and a 2.4 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds. "Rosewood" was the only new fall series opening on the night.
As a result of the strong "Empire" return, Fox was the most-watched network of the night in prime time, with 11.6 million viewers. CBS averaged 8 million viewers, NBC had 7.7 million, ABC had 7.1 million viewers and CW averaged 939,000.
Fox also led in adults 18-49 with a 4.4 rating, followed by ABC (2.5), CBS (2.4), NBC (1.6) and CW (0.3).