After a season of audience erosion that often hit double digits, "Idol" tied last year's Wednesday grand finale. The two hours delivered an 11.4/30 in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, which was Fox's total for the night.
This, of course, put Fox in first, and did 81% better than its competitors combined, as CBS delivered an overall 2.8/7, followed by NBC's 1.7/4, ABC's 1.2/3 and the CW's .6/2.
Not the only show in town
While "Idol" was the dominant finale last night -- and was the dominant show of the sweeps and the season -- it wasn't the only finale to watch, making its win that much more noticeable. CBS's "CSI: NY" (3.2/9) and "Criminal Minds" (3.4/8) were down 20% and 8%, respectively. The "Criminal Minds" rating is actually impressive, however, as last year's finale ran a week earlier and didn't have to face the crowning of Jordin Sparks, last year's "Idol." "CSI: NY," conversely, didn't have to run directly against "Idol," indicating that the "CSI" franchise, while still powerful, has probably peaked. CBS started the night with a scheduling stunt meant not to please the critics, but the green-eyeshades at Black Rock, as "The Price Is Right" showed its value by departing its daytime daypart and finishing second in its timeslot with a 1.8/5.
Two other jurisprudence shows had season finales last night, with NBC's venerable "Law & Order" locking up a 2.6/7, which was actually tied with last year's finale, which ran on a Friday. While this is impressive, given the near-record run of the program, it is less than a third of the 8.2/22 of 2001, a year when the country was particularly interested in institutions that would bring order to society. Earlier, two "Law & Order" reruns aired against the "Idol" buzz saw, delivering a 1.3/4 and a 1.2/3.
And ABC's law-related final was the more escapist "Boston Legal" (1.6/4), which lost 43% of its finale rating of last year. While not running against "Idol," it may have been affected by it, as the previous capper was the last week in May. Earlier, ABC's "Idol" sacrifice was a two-hour "Lost" rerun, which found just a 1.0/3.
As with the other players going up against the reality "sport" that "Idol" seems, the CW aired reruns, fielding "Farmer Wants a Wife" for two episodes, which delivered a .6/2 and a .7/2.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Thursday: ABC saves its best for last, as just before the summer season starts, the last new episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Ugly Betty" will try to make viewers anticipate the fall season.
Friday and the Weekend: Summer series are upon us, but the best reality shows the next few weeks are the NBA Conference Finals, Friday and Sunday on TNT and Saturday on ABC, as well as the Stanley Cup Finals, starting Saturday night on Vs.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Sure, the ratings will be smaller for the Stanley Cup than the NBA Conference Finals. But ratings surprises may still be in store as Pittsburgh Penguins superstars like Sidney Crosby create a compelling match-up against power franchise Detroit Red Wings.
~ ~ ~
NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with a TV. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live plus same day. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of a commercial minute, live-plus-three-day viewing basis.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of broadcast negotiations for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.