‘Star’ Headlines Wednesday: Will ‘Empire’ Follow-up Hit a High Note?

Fox has made its hit hip-hop soap opera available as a lead-in for the first time ever

Fox’s “Star” isn’t technically a spinoff of “Empire,” though it sure feels like one. And for tonight at least, the two will serve as companion series to each other — but how well will complimentary plots and producers translate into Nielsen numbers?

To give Lee Danielsnew music industry drama its biggest preview audience possible, the broadcast net is doing the previously unthinkable, shifting “Empire” up an hour to 8 p.m. That’ll provide a pretty good launchpad for its “Star” premiere at 9, but it will probably also hurt the fall finale for Taraji P. Henson & Co. as far as Live + Same Day TV ratings go.

After all, a number of casual “Empire” fans are likely to flip Fox on just in time for 2016’s final episode’s end credits. Whoops. Don’t be shocked if TheWrap reports (another) series low tune-in tally for that behemoth tomorrow.

Since Fox never airs national programming at 10 p.m., no show has ever known a direct “Empire” lead-in. That means we don’t actually have data to draw a reasonable “Star” debut prediction from. Of course, neither does the network — so what’s Fox looking for out of Thursday’s preliminarily available data?

For starters, Dana Walden and Gary Newman — who swore off those “live” ratings a year ago, by the way — should want “Star” to at least compare favorably with the freshman show that’s been leading into “Empire,” “Lethal Weapon.” The small-screen reboot about the escapades of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover‘s classic characters premiered on Sept. 21 to a healthy 2.2 in the key 18-49 demographic, which gave way to “Empire’s” giant 4.2.

“Lethal Weapon” put up a 2.0 in Week 2, and has mostly stayed in the high 1s since then. (Though last week was a particularly rough 1.4.) Afterward, “Empire” has averaged a 3.3 season-to-date. Don’t expect that at 8 p.m. tonight, or out of “Star” at 9.

Generally, successful retention for “Star” from its “Empire” lead-in would probably be in the 70-80 percent range, hour versus hour. Fox would likely be OK (but not especially happy) with as many as 10 percentage points lower than that. At this point, anything with a “2” in front of it could be construed as promising for “Star.”

Another telling sign for the girl-group series will be how well it holds from own half-hour to half-hour. If 9-9:30 ends up 0.5 or 0.6 ratings points better than 9:30-10, that’s a bad sign of sampling and rejection. A drop-off of one or two-tenths of a ratings point from start to finish wouldn’t be such a big deal, however, and could provide Fox a sigh of relief for the days “Star” can’t rely on the Lyons.

“Star” debuts tonight at 9/8c, immediately following the “Empire” midseason finale. Check back with TheWrap tomorrow morning to see how it all worked out.