We’re starting to run out of ways to praise the ratings for Fox’s Empire. Like with AMC’s The Walking Dead, there are only so many methods to describe a series with numbers that keep surprising and improving. The 18-49 demo rating is impressive. The hip-hop drama is the strongest hour-long show this season. The ratings defy gravity by growing when the usual trend is almost always for a show to decline as its freshman season progresses.
But now there is this: Empire has broken a ratings record that stood for more than 23 years. According to Fox, Empire is the only primetime scripted series to grow in total viewers over each of its first five telecasts since at least 1991. This record has almost certainly stood for longer than that, but Nielsen revised its measuring system 23 years ago and so comparisons can only be properly calculated that far back.
Also, Empire is technically the only series — not just scripted — to have accomplished this. ABC’s game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire grew through each of its first five telecasts in 1999, but they were technically considered “specials” when the show first started instead of regular episodes. So you can basically throw in all broadcast reality shows too.
So far this season for the first two weeks with total DVR data available, Empire is averaging 14 million viewers and a super-strong 5.6 rating among adults 18-19. That’s not as big as the zombie show, but there has been nothing in the adult demo since 2008 that has been.