It was the best of times and the worst of times for "American Idol" this week. Yes, a record 132 million votes came in on Tuesday night to help Phillip Phillips take home the top prize. But when the ratings for the finale were tallied up, well, nobody was popping corks or firing up the confetti cannons anymore.
Ponder this: Ratings for the season 11 finale were half of what they were during the 2003 season when Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken duked it out in front of 38 million viewers. Half is still 21.5 million, but that number is way down (27 percent) from the 29.3 million who saw Scotty McCreery take home the crown last year.
In fact, according to final Nielsen Co. figures, Wednesday night's "Idol" viewership is the smallest ever for the show's finale. Not only was the tune-in number an all-time low, but the show's 6.4 rating among the coveted adults 18-49 demographic was down 30 percent from last year as well.
"Idol" can take some solace in easily beating the finale ratings for such up-and-coming rivals as "The Voice" (11.93 million viewers, 4.4 rating) and "X Factor" (12.59 million viewers, 3.8 rating). The ratings decline this year was expected, since season 10 got a bit of a boost when Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler were added into the mix following the departure of former lead judge Simon Cowell.
Though it came into the season with the bragging rights as the #1 show on TV, "Idol" shed nearly 25 percent of its audience this year, falling below 20 million viewers for the first time since 2003. According to reports, the steepest drop-off was among viewers 18-49, the most sought-after demographic among networks.
The other shoe to drop on Thursday was that for the first time in eight years, "Idol" will not finish the season as the top-rated primetime program. According to The Hollywood Reporter, NBC's "Sunday Night Football" finished the 2011-2012 season as the dominant primetime program in total viewers and in all key audience demographics. "Football" averaged 20.7 million viewers this season and an 8.0 rating in the 28-49 demo.
The Wednesday night "Idol" performance broadcasts averaged 19.7 million viewers and 18.3 million on Thursday for the season, along with a 6.2 rating on Wednesday's.
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