Fox's megahit was down 10% from last year

Fox’s “American Idol” was never more dominant than this season, but its finale on Wednesday drooped some.

On the final night of the television season, the 127-minute “Idol” closer averaged a 10.0 rating/28 share in adults 18-49 and 28.84 million viewers overall, making it the top-rated telecast on television since the Academy Awards on ABC in February.

Still, it was down 12% in the demo (from 11.4/30) and 9% in total viewers (from 31.69 million) vs. last year. No “Idol” finale to date has ranked lower in 18-49, while this year’s overall audience matches the skein’s smallest since its first season in the summer of 2002.

Show peaked in the final seven minutes (10-10:07 p.m.) with 36% of the 18-49 television audience and more than 40 million viewers overall watching. By comparison, the opening half-hour of the finale pulled in 26% of the 18-49 aud and a little more than 23 million viewers.

“Idol’s” best demo delivery Wednesday came among women 25-54 (14.6/35) while it settled for a 5.4/19 in men 18-34 — numbers any other show would kill for in that elusive demo. Female teens produced the biggest share, a whopping 37 — jumping to a 46 share for its final seven minutes when 23-year-old Arkansas native Kris Allen was revealed as the winner.

For the season, “Idol” was down about 10% vs. a year ago in adults 18-49 and a bit less in total viewers. However, it claimed the top two spots in the season program rankings for a sixth straight year in adults 18-49 and for a fourth straight in total viewers — unprecedented achievements.

Fox notes that “Idol’s” advantage over the No. 3 show in 18-49 — ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” — was the largest to date (72%). This illustrates that “Idol” can still be as dominant as ever even if it has peaked in terms of overall viewership.

The only other series telecast to do anything Wednesday was CBS’ “Criminal Minds,” which wrapped its season with a two-hour finale (3.5/9 in 18-49, 13.99m). “Minds” started sluggishly opposite “Idol,” with a 3.0 demo rating at 9 p.m. but built to a 4.0 at 10:30 after the reality show had wrapped.

Other firstrun programs put up meager numbers: CBS comedies “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 5.55m) and “Gary Unmarried” (1.7/5, 5.52m) and NBC’s “Law and Order” (2.0/5, 6.67m). And ABC was not a factor with its three-hour broadcast premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (1.2/3, 3.41m).

The NBA Playoffs continue to score well on cable, however, with Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals between Orlando and Cleveland averaging a 3.2/9 in 18-49 and 7.32 million viewers overall from 8:36-11:34 p.m. on TNT. It was the night’s No. 2 program (behind only “Idol”) in adults 18-34 (3.5/12).

Wednesday wrapped the May sweep, which saw Fox prevail in adults 18-49 with a 3.3 rating/10 share, though it was down 11% vs. 2008. ABC and CBS tied for second at 2.7/8, with the Alphabet down 10% and the Eye flat. NBC ran a distant fourth (1.9/6), even with last year.

Fox also prevailed in adults 25-54 (3.9/11), though CBS was a competitive second (3.6/10). The Eye had it in total viewers (10.9 million to 9.3 million for runner-up Fox), winning in this category for a seventh consecutive May sweep.

These final numbers are subject to revision in a couple of weeks when Nielsen has tabulated all of the same-week DVR playback.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more