UPDATE, 9:34 AM: Final American Idol finale numbers are in from Nielsen. While the show remains at an all-time low, it did see an expected adjustment upward. The 8-10:07 PM Idol garnered a 3.6 rating with 14.3 million viewers, which is down 44% in ratings from Season 11′s finale and down 33% in viewership. The show was up 24% from its May 8 episode.
PREVIOUSLY, 8:19 AM: Thursday saw a flurry of finales including American Idol (3.4/11) ending its 12th season with an all-time finale low and The Office closing its doors for good. Declaring a winner from the final two female contestants, the more than two-hour live Idol was down 47% in preliminary ratings from the 6.4/18 final numbers of Season 11’s finale on May 23, 2012. It’s the first Idol finale to have less than 20 million viewers. The show, which went nearly eight minutes over the hour and will likely be adjusted up in the final numbers, pulled in 13.61 million viewers from 8-10:07 PM last night. That’s nearly 8 million viewers less than the 21.5 million who watched last year’s season finale. For the first time ever, the Idol finale wasn’t even the highest-rated show of the night — the Season 6 finale of The Big Bang Theory (4.4/16) topped Thursday. Facing off in the 8-8:30 slot, Idol garnered a 2.8 in adults 18-49 against the CBS geek sitcom. Idol was also way down from the 6.0/16 rating and 17.93 million viewers of the Season 12 premiere on January 16. Thursday’s finale was up 28% in adults 18-49 over last week’s show and saw a bounce from the 11.6 million viewers who watched May 9. With 13.608 millon watching, Fox won Thursday in total viewers and adults 18-49. (See complete list of American Idol finale viewership and ratings numbers below)
Related: Anyone Care Who Won ‘American Idol’?
Like the fact that a woman was the winner for the first time in six years, Thursday’s results for the Fox singing show’s season finale should come as no shock. Idol was down 25% this cycle from last season and has hit a series of all-time lows during its ratings erosion. Thursday’s preliminary ratings for the Idol finale were down from the 4.9/13 and 14.13 million viewers that The Voice’s live Season 3 finale received December 18. While beating the 11.90 million viewers that the NBC show’s second season snagged when its last spring cycle ended May 8, 2012, Idol came up short in the ratings against the 4.4/11 rating The Voice received. And that can’t simply be blamed on this season’s almost all rookie judges’ panel, the friction between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, or competition this cycle from the likes of The Voice. With the exception of a rise for Season 10’s finale in May 2011, Idol has been on a fairly steady downward trajectory since its season 5 ender in 2006. That year’s 14.2/36 rating with 36.383 million viewers was only beaten by the 16.8/37 rating and 38.06 million the series drew in a one-hour finale in Season 2 in 2003.
Ending its nine-season run and head-to-head with the last hour and a bit of Idol’s finale, the 9-10:15 PM The Office (2.9/8) series finale was watched by 5.41 million viewers. That’s up 26% from the 2.3/6 rating and 4.49 million viewers for the one-hour end of Season 8 on May 10, 2012. Because of the unusual multi-time-slot formatting of the NBC series’ last show, expect an adjustment later today. The Office finale was preceded by a one-hour The Office Retrospective (2.0/7) special. A clipped airing of Hannibal (1.7/5) followed the finale from 10:15-11 PM.
Big Bang Theory‘s Season 6 finale was the top show of the night with a 4.4/16 ratings and 14.78 million viewers. The 8 PM show was even with last year’s season ender but down 10% from last week to a season low. After a BBT encore (3.2/10), it was the two-hour Elementary (2.06) finale on CBS. The freshman Sherlock Holmes series bopped up 5% from its 10 PM episode last week.
On ABC, both Grey’s Anatomy (3.0/8) and Scandal (3.2/9) ended their respective seasons. As a storm hit Seattle on the show and Idol and The Office were on in the 9-10 PM slot, Grey’s Season 9 ender took a 27% hit down from last year’s finale. The drama also slipped 3% from last week’s show. Scandal, on the other hand, saw a big jump from the end of its first season. While flat with last week, the Season 2 end of the political drama was up 39% from the first season’s finale on May 17, 2012 to tie a series high. Before the two finales, ABC aired reality show Wipeout (1.0/3), which was down three tenths from last week’s premiere to a series low.
The CW also had finales as The Vampire Diaries (1.0/3) and Beauty And The Beast (0.5/1) wrapped their seasons. Diaries’ Season 4 finale was down 17% from last year and even with last week’s show to tie a series low. Freshman Beast was also even with last week and tied its season low.
American Idol Finale Viewership & Ratings Since Season 1
Wed-09/04/2002 8-10 PM 23.021M 10.8/30
Wed-05/21/2003 9-10 PM 38.060M 16.8/37
Wed-05/26/2004 8-10:02 PM 28.839M 12.0/32
Wed-05/25/2005 8-10:01 PM 30.269M 12.5/31
Wed-05/24/2006 8-10:04 PM 36.383M 14.2/36
Wed-05/23/2007 8-10:09 PM 30.755M 11.5/31
Wed-05/21/2008 8-10:06 PM 31.688M 11.4/30
Wed-05/20/2009 8-10:07 PM 28.838M 10.0/28
Wed-05/26/2010 8-10:07 PM 24.215M 8.2/24
Wed-05/25/2011 8-10:07 PM 29.288M 9.2/26
Wed-05/23/2012 8-10:07 PM 21.5M 6.4/18
Thurs-05/16/2013 8-10:07 PM 14.3M 3.6/11
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