When Empire first premiered last week, early numbers were pretty good for the sophomore drama’s return, but not as great as the highs the show was hitting week after week during the spring schedule last year. However, now the live plus three days numbers and streaming audiences have come in, Empire has proven the show is still crushing. A whopping 22.5 million total viewers tuned in, once the streaming audience, Hulu viewership and more were included.

This doesn’t mean that a whole lot less people are tuning in live. Although those who watched the premiere on the same day it aired were slightly smaller numbers than the Season 1 finale, 16.8 million total viewers tuned in for the actual premiere, giving the show a 6.7 rating. Once Live+ 3 numbers came in, that pushed Empire over the 20 million mark, with Variety reporting that the show was the third most-watched premiere during the fall TV opening week, following The Big Bang Theory and NCIS.

Those numbers also increased Empire’s rating to an 8.7 for the episode, which is the highest rating in the 18-49 demographic that any show was able to bring in this fall. While Empire’s initial ratings seemed a little lackluster compared to the latter portion of Season 1, now it looks as if the series hasn’t shed any viewers, after all.

These numbers don’t really surprise us. Despite the fact that Empire is cutting back on one fan-favorite character and bringing in new faces, the Season 2 premiere episode was a wild one, with Lucious attempting to run his empire from jail and Cookie getting up to some bold and calculated moves. Yes, this included watching her run around in a gorilla suit to make a Civil Rights statement. It was a good way to kick off the season and should lead to more shenanigans on the show as it moves forward.

Empire has been renewed for 18 episodes for its second season, giving showrunner Lee Daniels a longer season to play with (only 13 episodes were produced during Season 1). Empire’s ability to stick a strong landing in the ratings during its first week should bode well as the weeks wear on and the ratings do (typically) drop somewhat. If it’s a huge success now, it should still be at least a good success as the weeks wear on, leaving Fox’s drama in a pretty position when the network figures out what to renew and what not to renew for the 2016-2017 TV season. It’s never too early to start talking about next year.

If you haven’t seen what the hullabaloo is about, yet, you can catch new episodes of Empire on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET.

Photo courtesy of Fox.

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