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Though it was never in doubt that FOX would win the final night of the 2009-10 television season with the finale of American Idol, the question was, how much would the 2010 finale be down from the 2009 finale.

In Simon Cowell’s final appearance  Idol was down 18% with adults 18-49 and 16% with viewers as Lee DeWyze was crowned the newest American Idol.  It averaged an 8.2 rating with adults 18-49, and 24.2 million viewers from 8pm-10:07p.  Last year’s finale on May 20, 2009  drew a 10.0 adults 18-49 rating and 28.86 million viewers in live+SD viewing between 8p-10:07p.   It could’ve been worse — the Dancing With the Stars finale on Tuesday night was down 27% from last spring’s finale.

Here’s a historical look at Idol’s 18-49 rating and average viewers (millions) for the finales:

9/4/2002 American Idol 10.8 23.02
5/21/2003 American Idol 16.8 38.06
5/26/2004 American Idol 12.0 28.84
5/25/2005 American Idol 12.5 30.27
5/24/2006 American Idol 14.2 36.38
5/23/2007 American Idol 11.5 30.76
5/21/2008 American Idol 11.4 31.688
5/20/2009 American Idol 10.0 28.86
5/26/2010 American Idol 8.2 24.2

Though officially the final night of the season, NBC & ABC were already in summer mode against the Idol finale with NBC airing repeats and ABC the movie Transformers.  Besides FOX, only CBS offered up  any new content with the season finales of Criminal Minds and  CSI:  NY .  Next season CSI: NY packs its bags and heads to Friday.

Late night results via NBC press note:

  • In Nielsen’s 56 metered markets, household results were: “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” 2.9/7; CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman,” 2.8/7; and ABC’s “Nightline,” 2.7/6; and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” 1.4/4.
  • In the 25 markets with Local People Meters, adult 18-49 results were: “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” 0.9/4; “Late Show,” 0.9/4; “Nightline,” 0.9/4; and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” 0.6/3.
  • At 12:35 a.m., “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (1.4/5 in metered-market households) trailed CBS’s “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” (1.5/5).  In the 25 markets with Local People Meters, “Late Night” (0.6/3 in 18-49) topped “Late Late Show” (0.5/3).
  • At 1:35 a.m., “Last Call with Carson Daly” averaged a 0.8/3 in metered-market households and a 0.3/2 in adults 18-49 in the 25 markets with local people meters.

Nielsen overnight ratings for Wednesday, May 26, 2010:

Time Net Show 18-49 Rating/Sh Viewers (Millions)
8:00 FOX American Idol (Season Finale) 6.5/21 19.74
CBS Undercover Boss (R) 1.5/5 6.129
NBC Minute to Win It (R) 0.9/3 3.29
ABC Movie: Transformers 1.3/4 4.43
CW America’s Next Top Model (R) 0.6/2 1.44
9:00 FOX American Idol (Season Finale) 9.2/25 26.56
CBS Criminal Minds (Season Finale) 3.1/8 12.81
ABC Movie: Transformers 1.9/5 4.84
NBC Minute to Win It (R) 0.8/2 2.64
CW America’s Next Top Model (R) 0.5/1 1.31
10:00 FOX American Idol (Season Finale) 10p-10:07p 12.0 34.39
CBS CSI: NY (Season Finale) 2.7/8 11.90
ABC Movie: Transformers 2.0/6 5.167
NBC Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (R) 1.1/3 3.86

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2010 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

You can see TV ratings from other recent Overnight ratings reports here.

Definitions:

Fast Affiliate Ratings: These first national ratings, including demographics, are available at approximately 11 AM (ET) the day after telecast, and are released to subscribing customers daily. These data, from the National People Meter sample, are strictly time-period information, based on the normal broadcast network feed, and include all programming on the affiliated stations, sometimes including network programming, sometimes not. The figures may include stations that did not air the entire network feed, as well as local news breaks or cutaways for local coverage or other programming. Fast Affiliate ratings are not as useful for live programs and are likely to differ significantly from the final results, because the data reflect normal broadcast feed patterns. For example, with a World Series game, Fast Affiliate Ratings would include whatever aired from 8-11PM on affiliates in the Pacific Time Zone, following the live football game, but not game coverage that begins at 5PM PT. The same would be true of Presidential debates as well as live award shows and breaking news reports.

Rating: Estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. Ratings are expressed as a percent.

Share (of Audience): The percent of households (or persons) using television who are tuned to a specific program, station or network in a specific area at a specific time. (See also, Rating, which represents tuning or viewing as a percent of the entire population being measured.)

Time Shifted Viewing – Program ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live+Same Day (Live+SD) and Live+7 Day. Time shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs which are currently in approximately 24.4% of all U.S. TV households. Live+Same Day (Live+SD) include viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3:00AM local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live+7 Day ratings include incremental viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.

For more information see Numbers 101.

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