'Idol,' 'Lost' finish strong, but down from 2006

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NEW YORK -- Fox's "American Idol" finished its sixth season with a strong but diminished finale while the "Lost" season finale fell double digits compared to last year.

Wednesday's 'Idol' finale dropped 22% in adults 18-49 (11.1 rating/30 share) compared to last year's 14.2/35 and down 19% to 29.5 million compared to last year's 36.4 million, according to preliminary data released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research. It was the lowest 18-49 numbers since its original cycle in 2002 and the lowest viewership since the third season. It's likely to increase in the ratings with the final numbers released later today since the 10 p.m. to 10:09 p.m. portion where "Idol" picked its winner wasn't included in the ratings.

Of course "American Idol" remained the top series on television. But "Idol" also declined year--to-year on 29 of its last 31 telecasts in adults 18-49.

"Idol" peaked at 34.9 million viewers (and a 13.3/32) at 10 p.m. just five minutes before Jordin Sparks was crowned the winner and performed her final song. The two-hour plus "Idol" started at 8 p.m. with 22.9 million viewers.

"Lost" (13.7 million, 5.8/15) was beaten by "Idol" between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. although it gained viewers and in adults 18-49 after 10 p.m. But it was down 23% in viewers and 24% in adults 18-49 compared to last year's season finale May 24 (17.8 million, 7.6/18). And it fell even further compared to the first-season finale (from 8-10 p.m. on May 25, 2005) that averaged 20.7 million viewers and a 7.8/19 in adults 18-49.

CBS and NBC were largely absent from the night's competition with repeats with the exception of a low-rated "Dateline: NBC" (4.8 million, 1.7/4) at 10 p.m.

Nightly averages: ABC (11 million, 4.5/12); CBS (9.3 million, 2.2/6); NBC (4.3 million, 1.8/5); Fox (29.5 million, 11.1/30); and The CW (1.3 million, 0.6/2).
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