‘Empire’ Premiere Evokes Strong Emotions

One eagerly anticipated fall TV premiere this week was the return of Fox’s stalwart Empire, which ended with a bang (literally) last season as one of the show’s main characters, Lucious narrowly escaped death.

B&C partnered with Canvs, the emotion measurement company, to see what viewers had to say about season four opener on social media. Also below: brand and advertising data for Empire courtesy of iSpot.tv, and a look at what else the show’s viewers were watching this week, via Inscape.tv.

According to Canvs, there were 25,149 Emotional Reactions (ERs) prompted by the premiere. Love was the dominant feeling people expressed, appearing in 17.5% of all ERs, and among those conversations, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) was the most-mentioned character.

Notably, there was also an undercurrent of dislike (10% of ERs) during this episode, particularly about Lucious’s nurse (portrayed by Demi Moore). Fans were not shy about expressing distrust for her character as she seemed to be cozying up to Lucious, who was still recovering from the assassination attempt and has yet to regain his memory. Some even went as far to call her sneaky and shady.

There were a total of 18 brands that advertised during the Empire premiere, according to TV ad analytics firm iSpot.tv, which has attention and conversion data from millions of smart TVs. Those companies ran 23 spots a total of 25 times, with an estimated spend of $3.4 million. Auto makers and consumer electronics companies topped the list of big spenders, with Lincoln Motor Company coming in first, and Apple second and fourth—for, respectively, Watch and iPhone. This makes a certain amount of sense: for a show with such glitz and glam, it’s a natural fit for high-end brands such as Lincoln and Apple.

But when it came to viewer attention, Lincoln, Apple and Ford didn’t fare quite as well as other brands. According to the iSpot Attention Index, ads from the top spending brands were more likely to have interruptions than the average commercial (interruptions include changing the channel, pulling up the guide, fast-forwarding or turning off the TV). Lionsgate, State Farm and Warner Bros. were some of the Empire advertisers that were able to hold viewer attention with commercials that were 70-76% less likely to be interrupted than the average.

How did Empire compare to some of the other big broadcast premieres on Wednesday night? Data from Inscape, the TV data company with glass-level information from 7 million smart TV screens and devices, shows it in roughly second place (remember that time-shifted viewing can ultimately affect final ratings), behind Survivor on CBS, and above ABC’s The Goldbergs and The Blacklist on NBC.

Looking at solely the Empire episode, Inscape shows that viewership slowly but steadily ticked up as the episode progressed.

It also appears that a majority of Empire viewers were watching Fox programming before the premiere. They typically stuck with watching Empire without switching to other channels during the episode, and then stayed on Fox to watch the season premiere of Star. A smaller segment switched over to the Oprah Winfrey Network after Empire concluded, while others moved on to NBC’s Chicago P.D.