‘Empire’ Returns Early With Expanded 18-Episode Season 2, Execs See ‘Opportunity to Grow’

Fox Television Group Co-Chairman/CEO Dana Walden insists: “We don’t want to be greedy”

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“Empire” will return to its Wednesday 9 p.m. timeslot next season revealed earlier Monday morning with Fox’s complete fall schedule.

“We’d be crazy to move it,” said Fox co-chairman and CEO Gary Newman.

The hip-hop soap opera will increase its season from 12 to 18 episodes for its sophomore run, as TheWrap previously speculated. Season 2 will also be split into two halves, Fox executives told reporters on a Monday morning conference call.

“We don’t want to be greedy, if we came back with the audience we left off with we’d be thrilled,” Fox Television Group Co-Chairman and CEO Dana Walden said.

Still, maybe being a little greedy wouldn’t hurt, considering Fox is finishing up the fall season in fourth place out of the so-called Big 4 networks. Fox TV Group COO Joe Earley sure has his fingers crossed over the return of his shiny hit, which came courtesy of Lee Daniels and Danny Strong.

“We do believe there is an opportunity to grow the show, so we have been focused on catch-up,” Earley offered.

So how do you grow TV’s biggest series?

Apparently a ton of marketing, promotion, mall tours, great upcoming guest stars, getting fan favorite Cookie (pictured above, Taraji P. Henson) to host “Saturday Night Live,” and of course, catch-up viewing. However, being that it is 2015, “Empire” actually won’t run repeats in linear primetime at all, executives said on the pre-upfronts presentation call. Those eager to join the conversation can rely on SVOD, the Fox Now app and other alternative untraditional platforms.

Also new for Season 2 will be singer-songwriter Ne-Yo, who in addition to Timbaland, will contribute to the drama’s music and thus key buzzword, “authenticity.”

Expect more announcements on “Empire’s” second season next month, when much of the marketing begins its rollout.