Empire, a show about a hip-hop titan and his three sons, premiered last night on Fox to almost 10 million viewers — a number that's nothing to be scoffed at. Its rating in the key demographic of 18- to 49-year-old viewers was a 3.8, enough to tie with How to Get Away With Murder for the top debut of the season. It was the highest-rated debut for Fox since Touch in 2012.
What's even more impressive about Empire's numbers is that the show gained viewers as the episode progressed. What that means is that the viewers for the show weren't just limited to people who hung around after American Idol ended. Viewers came to Fox after Idol ended specifically to watch the show. Idol scored only a 3.1 in the key demographic, in fact, though it won slightly more viewers than Empire.
Empire is the third show this year with a non-white cast to pull in high ratings. The first was Black-ish in September. Black-ish's 10.78 million viewership was only slightly down from its lead-in, Modern Family, at 10.93 million. When that show premiered, I wrote that it was "the best premiere night for any show gifted with the post-Modern Family slot in four years."
Then How to Get Away With Murder passed the 10 million mark again. The first episode was seen by an estimated 14 million viewers. My colleague Alex Abad-Santos wrote that "it's worth noting that prioritizing diversity in entertainment seems to have paid off for ABC."
With Empire, Fox suggest viewers' desire for diverse leads isn't just limited to one network. That's great news for the future of diversity on television, and for Empire.