But don't rejoice too much, eh? It's not quite as much bigger as perhaps you might have hoped.
FOX executives announced on Monday (May 11) that Season 2 of “Empire” will expand to 18 episodes, split into two separated half-seasons, up from 12 episodes this spring, but well short of a full network slate of 22.
In a conference call with reporters, FOX brass didn't go into depth on why “18” was the magic number for Season 2 episodes, but there were questions on the decision to keep “Empire” in a 9 p.m. Wednesday slot and how FOX will attempt to keep or build momentum for a show that will presumably return in September after more than six months off the air.
One key to maintaining momentum will obviously be pushing the cast everywhere imaginable, which has already been happening January and was probably a big part of the show's recently unprecedented ratings growth through that initial run of episodes.
“They've done mall tours, they've performed in smaller venues,” Fox Television Group co-Chairman and CEO Dana Walden said. “They've done quite a thorough publicity tour. You saw Taraji hosted 'Saturday Night Live.' We've got some exciting plans that will kick off in June, some that are a little premature to discuss, but we've also got just amazing guest stars who have lined up to be on this show that I think will help us not only bring back an audience that fell in love with this show in the first season, but help to expand it as well.”
Those big names include Ne-Yo, who will join Timbaland in the music production and writing for next season's originals.
Of course, there's a threshold to both the potential audience and to what can be asked of cast that's already spread pretty thin.
“We don't want to be greedy,” Walden acknowledged. “If we came back with the audience that we left off with, we would be thrilled and based on the creative that we heard from our executive producers the week before last, I don't think that's going to be a problem, but we're definitely at this point the requests for this cast are so numerous, we're trying to make it so that they can be out there, but still get a little bit of rest prior to an enormous production season.”
That means that FOX has been trying to provide other, organic, ways to get audiences to discover “Empire,” albeit without doing that thing TV networks used to do back in the day when they would repeat episodes of TV shows on-air.
“We do believe there is an opportunity to grow the show, so we have been focused on catch-up,” said FOX COO Joe Earley It's sorta similar to when we launched 'Glee' behind 'American Idol' and spent the summer catching people up with that show. We're spent this summer doing a big push to catch-up on all of the platforms where we have it.”
One thing that was at least a theoretical possibility was moving “Empire” to an 8 p.m. time period where it could have been used to launch a new show. Instead, it's steady on Wednesdays at 9, with “Rosewood” praying that “Empire” will have a halo as a lead-out.
FOX execs denied, however, that “Empire” is at 9 because the content was potentially too racy for the 8 p.m. hour.
“The show really was appointment television in a way that's kinda unprecedented in this day and age and it didn't make any sense to us at all to move it,” say Walden's partner-in-crime Gary Newman. “Content wasn't an issue. We think the show could have played at 8 o'clock, but we really wanted to reward the fans and make it as easy for people to find it live as ever.”