Empire, the Fox soap opera about a rich and famous family of music moguls starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, is a bonafide hit with ratings increasing week to week. Reaching 11.3 million viewers with yesterday’s epsiode, the ratings growth of the show is an almost unheard of phenomena in television.
“New shows typically decline 15% in their second week, drop again in their third, and then settle as some viewers sample and then reject them,” says USA Today.
The success comes after a concerted effort from the network to build a loyal audience among African Americans. According to The Hollywood Reporter:
“Our goal was to make this show an event for a core group of people and make it really tantalizing for a really broad group of people,” says Fox Television Group COO Joe Earley. “It’s broad and niche at the same time.”
African Americans watch more live television than any other group; 42 percent more. But just because the cast is predominantly Black doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to tune in. Outreach is necessary.
To that end, the network says it hosted “40 influencer screenings” with help from Liquid Soul as well as advertising in places where Black audiences already congregate: on Vh1 for shows like Love & Hip Hop and Bravo where The Real Housewives of Atlanta is a ratings winner.
The show is also being helped along by the growing media coverage, which is increasing in tandem with the ratings.
The New York Times notes that Fox needed a hit in order to offset some of the losses from American Idol, which is waning in popularity, and cable and other content sources like Netflix, which are siphoning off viewers.
The key now will be maintaining those ratings. Viewers are embracing greater diversity on television. And Empire has great music and a plot that throws tons of curve balls, which also suits audiences these days.
The biggest issue might be the sheer number of things there are to watch. For instance, on my list tonight Scandal comes back (recap tomorrow), then there’s going to be The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Better Call Saul. I’m still trying to get through Orange Is The New Black and I like The Mindy Project. Then there’s House of Cards and now that I watched American Horror Story: Freak Show I feel like I should go back and watch the other seasons. I don’t have HBO so I’m going to have to sit with Girls one of these days and I still haven’t seen True Detective or Game of Thrones. At some point, I would like to leave the house and talk to people so I have to draw the line somewhere, binge watch when I have the time, squeeze in an episode or two of something to give it a try and (hopefully at this point) rule it out.
The thought of adding another show is overwhelming.