Season-Ending Episode Has Highest Ratings for New Show Finale in a Decade

Fox’s unstoppable Empire continued its reign all the way through the satisfyingly gonzo season finale last night, concluding an incredible 10 straight weeks of ratings growth to end as the highest-rated finale of a new series in ten years, drawing a massive 16.7 million in audience. Up 79% in the demo from premiere to finale, at this point, the only program on television that’s bigger is AMC’s The Walking Dead. The Twentieth Century Fox/Columbia ST remains #2 at iTunes.

Empire’s social media influence is equally huge, generating 2.4 million (mostly hilarious) tweets as loyal viewers fell the F out over the unrelenting levels of drama served up by the fictional Lyon Family. According to Nielsen, Empire has already surpassed current champion The Walking Dead for the most tweets per episode of any series on television, no doubt fueled by the Empire “gif” boom which is an online chorus of pure comedy. But c’mon, with scenes like Cookie and Anika’s kick ass girl fight and Lucious’ ending promise of “Game time, bitches,” this show is truly the Gif that keeps on giving.

Meanwhile, the Season 1 Soundtrack debuted at #2 on the charts, moving 110K in sales this week. Although the program has yet to launch a real hit single, co-star Jussie Smollett, who plays music prodigy and new Empire successor Jamal, is clearly poised to become a breakout solo superstar in his own right. His debut album on Columbia--which signed him as an artist just two weeks ago, as well as co-star Bryshere Gray--is due later this year. Smollett had the most-streamed song of the season with "Good Enough," which was listened to 4.2 million times.

The show has however, become a major promotional vehicle for recording artists and a heavy load of them rolled through in Season 1 including Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, Juicy J, Anthony Hamilton, Estelle and Rita Ora plus both newcomer Charles Hamilton and hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg performed their new singles on the finale.

If the finale was any indication, Season 2 should be insane.