MINNAEPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Kris Allen pulled off an upset, beating favored Adam Lambert to become the next "American Idol." No such luck for Fox's ratings rivals, however, as the network easily won the night with the season finale of "Idol." Indeed, the only ratings suspense wasn't whether Fox would win but how much lower the finale rating would be compared with last year's. At least in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, it was 12% off, as "Idol" belted out a 10.0/28 rating and share for the two-hour finale.
While "Idol" declined to finale and spring series lows in its eighth iteration, Fox data indicate that for the full season, "Idol" enjoyed its widest gap yet over TV's No. 2 ranked show, ABC's "Desperate Housewives," with an overall 72% advantage. And despite the slow erosion of "Idol," its finale reached more 28.8 million people, augmenting the argument that Fox --and all the other networks -- made this upfront week about the power of network TV in a fragmented media landscape.
Not surprisingly, the other networks took a pass against "Idol" -- except CBS, whose more august audience often made that network the most "Idol"-resistant, if not "Idol"-proof, on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So it took the ratings risk of running season finales of its own, with mixed results. Sitcom "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (1.6/5) had only 36% of last year's last-episode viewers. Lead-out "Gary Unmarried" (1.7/5), which had its first season finale, followed. But results were better for the two-hour season finale of "Criminal Minds," as the finale increased by a tenth of a ratings point to a 3.5/9 and overall the season's ratings stayed even. For the night, CBS finished second with a 2.9/8.
NBC was third with a 1.3/4, as it opted for three versions (repurposed, repeat and original episode) of three versions of its "Law and Order" franchise. "Law and Order: CI" jumped from cable cousin USA, and "Law and Order: SVU" ran a rerun; both booked a 1.0/3. And an original of the show's original series, "Law and Order," ran at 10p.m. and doubled to a 2.0/5.
The CW, which probably had some in its desired demographic of younger females viewing (and voting on) "American Idol," ran theatrical "Take the Lead." It didn't, finishing fifth with a .4/1.
And ABC also put the big screen on the small one, with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." It may have had screen idol Johnny Depp, but it didn't matter, as on a night when "American Idol" Kris Allen -- and Fox -- won the ratings and revenue treasure, "Pirates" delivered only a 1.2/3.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Thursday: Season comings (the season premiere of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" and goings (season finales for ABC's "Ugly Betty" and NBC's "Southland") typify the transition between the networks' spring and summer seasons.
Friday: Concerned about the H1N1 flu virus? Then don't watch "Outbreak" on AMC.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Both the Thursday shows have been renewed, but "Betty" has been sent to an ugly Friday-night time slot, and "Southland" continues its ratings slide. How will their finales fare?
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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.