'Idol' Finale Falls From Pedestal, But Retains Crown

FOX's American Idol season finaleThe "American Idol" finale may have dipped 14% from a year ago -- to under 30 million viewers for the first time since season three -- but the show isn't going broke. Ratings-wise, it is still way ahead of the pack.

This season, it averaged a 9.8 rating/25 share among 18-49 viewers for its Tuesday performance show -- down 13% -- and a 9.7 rating/24 share for its Wednesday results show against the same demo, off 9%.

But both numbers are almost 70% higher than the second-place-rated network show, "Desperate Housewives." Moreover, according to Nielsen Media Research, the show still averages big unit rates.

In February, Nielsen says the show averaged $693,200 for a 30-second spot for its Tuesday edition and $665,900 for its Wednesday edition. "Desperate Housewives" averaged $175,500 for a 30-second message.

The show also pulls in millions from its big U.S. sponsorship/brand entertainment/media deals with Ford Motor Co, AT&T. and Coca-Cola -- which, according to media buyers, shell out around $55 million a piece.

"The show is still three times the rating of the average network show, and four times the price of an average network show," says Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate media director of Horizon Media.

"American Idol" averaged a 10.0 for its two-hour finale among 18-49 viewers, a 7.6 rating among the 18-34 audience, and 28.8 million viewers overall. The show peaked to a 14.9 18-49 rating during the last seven minutes of the show, which also brought in 40 million viewers.

Last year, the "Idol" finale earned an 11.0 rating among 18-49 viewers and 30.6 million overall viewers.

This year -- as it did a year ago -- "Idol" lost steam among its younger crowd, the 18-34 and 18-49 demos. In particular, young males are turning away, with male teens slipping 20% year-to-year on average for its ratings on its performance show, and 21% down for its results show.

The more resistant demo has been female teens -- which, on average, lost 10% in ratings for its performance show, and 4% in ratings for its results show.

"The younger viewers are the first ones to tune it out," says Adgate. "Its median age has grown from 32 (the first season) to 44 this year. That's an indication that the older folks are staying around."

Fox won the "Idol" finale night with a 10.0/28. CBS was next at 2.9/8, offering up the only real opposition to "Idol" with a "Criminal Minds" finale, which earned a 3.5/9. NBC took a 1.3/4; ABC had a 1.2/3; CW earned a 0.4/1; and MyNetworkTV finished at a 0.3/1.

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