Simon Cowell’s final episode of American Idol and the finale of season nine was the lowest-rated finale since the show’s first season, which aired in the summer and thus isn’t directly comparable.
During the last seven minutes, pretty much the only seven minutes that had anything to do with the competition, 34.39 million people tuned in to watch Lee DeWyze win. But overall, 24.2 million people watched the entire two-hour mess, which is “down 18% with adults 18-49, and 16% with viewers and even the final seven minutes was down around 15% from last year when it averaged around 40 million,” according to TV By the Numbers.
That’s the second-lowest-rated finale, and about four million fewer viewers than last year. TV By the Numbers has a chart comparing all of the finales, which actually peaked when Taylor Hicks won and 36.38 people watched.
The New York Times notes that the show is still “a dominant force, drawing more viewers than any non-sports show on television, and it remains the envy of the television world. Reaffirming its cultural impact, almost 45 million people tuned into the two-hour show at some point Wednesday. Nonetheless, its ratings declines this season must prompt a certain amount of anxiety among the show’s producers, especially as they prepare for a season without Mr. Cowell next winter.”