The Empire finale was every bit the Nielsen blockbuster for which Fox execs had prayed (and which TV industry insiders had expected). Per early estimates — we’ll update with final numbers later — the two-hour telecast drew a stunning 16.5 million viewers and averaged an eye-popping 6.5 rating among the advertiser-coveted adults-under-50 demo. With the surge from last week’s episode (14.9 million viewers), Empire becomes the first scripted show on network TV to add audience every week during its freshman season since at least the early 1990s (when Nielsen began keeping regular track of such things). Among viewers under 50, the Empire finale is also the top-rated season-ender for a new show since spring 2005, when Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, and Lost captivated the country. Even though it was promoted as a two-hour episode, Fox and Nielsen actually plan to count only the 9–10 p.m. hour of Empire as the show’s actual finale — no doubt because that final hour was even higher-rated, averaging 17.5 million viewers and a 6.8 rating in the preliminary numbers. However you cut it, Empire goes into the books as a smash. It grew roughly 80 percent from its January premiere to its finale, and it has now officially passed The Big Bang Theory as broadcast TV’s No. 1 show with viewers under 50.
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