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Updated: 'American Idol' finale is least-watched since '02

Wednesday's "American Idol" finale may have boasted higher vote tallies and splashier production numbers than in the past. But the ratings? Call them a sign of the straitened times, but they were reduced.

Fox's two-hour finale, a heavily hyped showdown in which low-key crooner Kris Allen upset flamboyant rocker Adam Lambert, drew an average of 27.7 million total viewers, according to early data from Nielsen Media Research. That represented a 13% slide compared with last year and was the least-watched "Idol" closer since the first season in summer 2002 (23 million). (Fox offered "time-zone-adjusted" ratings from Nielsen, which offered a higher viewer tally of 28.8 million, a mark the network said would be closer to the final figure.) The 2003 finale between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken remains the most-watched, with 38.1 million tuning in.
Tuesday's final performance show was likewise the least-watched in seven years, with 23.8 million viewers. In 2006, the last performance episode, featuring winner Taylor Hicks and runner-up Katharine McPhee, hit an all-time high of 31.8 million.

Among young viewers, "Idol's" descent continued. The Wednesday show sunk to a  record-low 9.5 rating/27 share in the crucial adults aged 18 to 49 demographic, a 17% skid compared with last year.

However, "Idol" still remains far and away TV's No. 1 series, whose ratings achievements are all the more remarkable against a backdrop of steep declines for broadcasters. The Tuesday and Wednesday editions of "Idol" have been the top shows with adults 18 to 49 for six straight seasons -- the longest run in network history. This season, "Idol" piled up a record 72% ratings advantage over the next highest series, ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

Wednesday's finale was a suitably out-sized affair, with musical acts as varied as Queen Latifah, KISS and Jason Mraz. Perhaps the most-discussed highlight came when judge Kara DioGuardi dueted with former contestant Katrina Darrell, a.k.a. Bikini Girl.

 - Scott Collins

Comments () | Archives (2)

It wouldn't surprise me if the warning that the show was scheduled to go over caused the drop in viewership. If the audience knows the winner won't be revealed until at least 10:01 pm, there's no point in watching the 8-10pm filler.

well i watched it and may i add enjoyed it very much


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