'American Idol' finale ratings lowest since Season 1
Wednesday's (May 26) finale, which crowned Lee DeWyze as this year's winner, scored 24.2 million viewers and an 8.2 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic. (That's up slightly from the fast nationals, which didn't take into account the portion that aired after 10 p.m.) The adults 18-49 rating is the finale's lowest ever by a good margin, and it's down 18 percent from the 10.0 the 2009 finale posted.
In viewers, the finale drew a smaller crowd than any since the show's first season ender in September 2002, which attracted 22.8 million people. Wednesday's show was off about 16 percent from last year's "Idol" coronation.
The downward trend is longer in the 18-49 demographic. Since reaching a high mark of 14.2 at the end of Season 5 (when Taylor Hicks beat Katharine McPhee), the finale's demo numbers have declined each year: 11.5 in 2007, 11.4 in '08, 10.0 last year and now Wednesday's 8.2. The finale also peaked in viewers (36.4 million) that year; since then it's drawn 30.7 million ('07), 31.7 million ('08), 28.8 million ('09) and this year's 24.2 million.
DVR numbers will bump the finale up somewhat, but given the average gains the show has made so far this season -- about 8 percent in viewers and 10 percent in the 18-49 demo -- it's not likely to move up the rankings.
For the season as a whole, "Idol" shed about 9 percent of its total audience and 10 percent in adults 18-49. The line from FOX is that those are expected declines for a show in its ninth season, and it's still far and away the most-watched series on television. But it's not quite the universe-dominating hit it used to be.
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Photo credit: FOX