Credit: Chuck Hodes/Fox

Empire” is right!

Fox’s Empire delivered a ratings surprise Wednesday night by rising slightly in the Nielsens for its second episode.

The freshman hip-hop drama’s numbers have climbed despite several factors:

Empire‘s lead-in, American Idol, declined.

— Competition on CBS increased, with higher-rated Criminal Minds in the 9 p.m. slot instead of The People’s Choice Awards.

Empire‘s first week was surprisingly strong and new shows almost always drop for their second episodes — especially if the premiere was higher than expected.

— The Empire slot contained a minute of overrun from lower-rated American Idol, which if anything should have potentially weakened these preliminary numbers.

Empire had 10.3 million viewers and a 4.0 rating among adults 18-49, up 5 percent. While Idol (10.5 million and a 2.9 rating), went down 9 percent. Empire easily topped the night, beating every other broadcast show.

Last week’s Empire debut tied ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder as the highest-rated new fall show in the demo. I wouldn’t be surprised if last night’s number also sets a precedent of some kind. I’m sure Fox’s researchers are figuring that out right now…

More to come…