‘Empire’ Not Successful Overseas, International Audiences Resist Hollywood Push For Diversity

Empire is a smash hit in the United States but that success has not translated well for international audiences. In recent years, Hollywood has been working hard to push a better selection of diverse television shows that include Empire, Black-ish, and Fresh Off The Boat according to the Hollywood Reporter. The problem is, audiences in other countries aren’t nearly as accepting of TV shows that boast casts that are made up of minorities. They just don’t pull the same ratings, or even close, overseas.

In the wake of a huge Oscars controversy where many wanted to boycott the awards show due to the lack of diversity in the nominees yet again, it seems as if TV is getting it right. More and more TV series featuring minorities in the lead role and filling out the cast are starting to hit the airwaves, and several of them have been incredibly successful, too.

As THR pointed out, there are even new series slated to begin that will feature minority actors, including the new 24 reboot called 24: Legacy that will star Corey Hawkins as well as the new CBS comedy Rush Hour, which is based on the action-comedy film starring Chris Tucker.

Despite Empire’s overwhelming success in the United States in its first season and a pretty decent sophomore season that returns from a mid-season hiatus tonight, the Fox hit has not done well in other countries. Empire has been a failure in Canada, the U.K., Australia, and Germany. When trying to figure out what went wrong with the Fox hit internationally, they are simply blaming the lack of success on the fact that the show has an all-black cast and international audiences cannot relate.

“These shows are a reflection of our society, but [they are] not a reflection of all societies,” Marion Edwards, president of international TV at Fox, says. “Having a diverse cast creates another hurdle for U.S. series trying to break through; it would be foolish not to recognize that. We are telling our units that they need to be aware that by creating too much diversity in the leads in their show means … problems having their shows translating to the international market.”

Is the issue really in the all-black cast? According to Vulture, shows with a black lead actor such as CSI have done well. There is even a new Criminal Minds spinoff starring two minority actors, Tyler James Williams and Daniel Henney. Procedurals such as these tend to be smash hits overseas. So maybe it’s not an issue of having an all-black cast with a storyline specific to living an urban lifestyle that is the problem. Instead, it looks like there may be an issue with the type of drama that Empire is that just doesn’t translate over to an international audience.

While news that Empire does not do well internationally is a bummer, it’s certainly not the end of the world for the series. The midseason finale pulled in 12 million viewers for Empire and even with ratings down from the first season, it is still one of the most watched series on TV in the United States. The mid-season premiere is coming up tonight (March 30) and should boast even more viewers than the finale just months ago.

Will you be tuning in to watch Empire on Fox tonight? All the action goes down at 9/8 c.