'American Idol' finale on par with last season's

31.7 mil viewers tune in for David Cook's win

The "American Idol" seventh season finale Wednesday night managed to essentially match last year's performance, with the coronation of David Cook watched by an estimated 31.7 million viewers.

The finale was up slightly among total viewers compared with last season, but down a notch among the adults 18-49 demographic.

Last year, 30.8 million viewers tuned in to see Jordin Sparks win Fox's singing competition. Wednesday's "Idol" total, by comparison, will represent the show's third-largest audience ever.

In the demo, "Idol" registered an 11.4 preliminary rating, according to Fox's time zone-adjusted fast nationals. That's down 1% from last year -- the lowest-rated "Idol" finale since the show's debut season in 2002. The rating is also down sharply –- 20% -- from the show's 2006 finale.

Because of the nature of measuring live viewing audiences, the total viewers or demo rating could change Thursday afternoon, but time zone-adjusted nationals tend to hold fairly steady.

Even if the demo rating holds as the lowest in years, the finale is good news for Fox. The show has averaged a 10% decline this season, so the finale numbers represent some improvement after weeks of record lows.

As for the show itself, Salon raved "America finally gets it right." USA Today notes that some fans are irked by the singers using teleprompters as if "Idol" is barroom karaoke. The Los Angeles Times has notes from the show's postfinale press conference.

Nothing aired on the other broadcast networks came close to "Idol," with competitors opting for repeats in some time periods. CBS' "Criminal Minds" (13 million, 3.3/8) was the second highest-rated show of the night.