How Fox’s ‘Empire’ Gives ‘Rosewood’ a Powerful Reverse Lead-In

It’s no coincidence that Morris Chestnut is at his hottest minutes before Cookie Lyon comes onscreen

Empire Rosewood

From 8:45 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, Morris Chestnut is the man on broadcast TV — sort of. The only problem is, drama “Rosewood” has 45 other minutes to fill.

Each episode, “Rosewood” ratings go up every single quarter hour — a fairly unusual phenomenon. Elsewhere, many shows are routinely flat half-hour to half-hour, and more than a handful go down.

Generally, viewing levels do tend to rise throughout the 8 o’clock hour across television — the beginning of primetime — which partially helps to explain the “Rosewood” case. But more importantly, the self-starting drama builds toward something truly great: “Empire.”

The top show on broadcast TV airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox; That shared border between the two shows is no doubt contributing to “Rosewood’s” success — the freshman series got a full season order last week — providing it with a reverse lead-in. Apparently, people will tune in a bit early to not miss a minute of the Lee Daniels‘ hip-hop soap opera, which has helped goose “Rosewood’s” numbers thus far.

Last week, for example, “Rosewood” opened to a 1.1 from 8 to 8:15 p.m .From 8:15 to 8:30 p.m., it got a 1.3. Fifteen minutes later it crept to a 1.4. From 8:45 to 9 p.m., “Rosewood” jumped to a 1.9.

rosewood ratings

That 1.9 was still slightly behind ABC’s “The Goldberg’s,” which had a 2.0 for the last 15 minutes of the half-hour sitcom. “Survivor” won the time slot with a 2.2. All of those bested NBC’s somewhat soft and definitely older-skewing “The Mysteries of Laura, which drew a 1.0.

As further evidence of the reverse lead-in theory, no other 15-minute shift in that hour varied by more than two-tenths of a ratings point, whereas “Rosewood” lifted by half of a full point.

Weeks 1 and 2, “Rosewood” rose 20 percent from 8:30-8:45 p.m. to 8:45-9 p.m. — and that was just the beginning.

In Week 3 of the fall season, the drama jumped 29.4 percent to the final quarter-hour. Last week, it increased a massive 35.7 percent with “Empire” on the horizon. That doesn’t happen elsewhere on TV.

For comparison, gold-standard “Empire” itself ticked up just 1.5 percent Week 1 in its final 15 minutes; In Week 2, it lifted 3.6 percent. The next week “Empire” saw a 3.9 percent increase to the end of the show, while last week it rose 6.5 percent. To be fair, “Empire’s” much larger base number means its percentage shifts will be less pronounced than “Rosewood’s.”

Fox has also peppered “Rosewood’s” commercial breaks with “Empire” sneak peeks and blooper reels, encouraging viewers of the later show to tune in early for first-look content. For now, the reverse lead-in strategy is working well enough to secure a full season. But if “Rosewood” ever wants to stand on its own, Morris Chestnut may need to start taking his shirt off much earlier in each episode.