‘Idol’ finale shows improvement

29.2 million tune in when overrun is included

“American Idol” closed its comeback season on a high note, with 29.2 million viewers watching as Scotty McCreery was crowned the 10th victor of the singing competish that has dominated primetime for nearly a decade.

In year-to-year season finale comparisons, Wednesday’s live finale — featuring performances from Lady Gaga and Bono — was up 5 million in total viewers and up 11% in adults 18-49 with a 9.2 rating/26 share. The program ran seven minutes over its allotted two-hour timeslot, with the last moments of the show cutting into the local news time period.

In that final seven minutes, in which McCreery was crowned, viewership rocketed to 38.7 million.

The highest-rated “American Idol” season finale came in 2006, when more than 36 million tuned in to see Taylor Hicks defeat Katharine McPhee.

Wednesday’s finale was the culmination of an “Idol” season that was actually up 5% in total viewers while down 5% in 18-49. Fox execs had major concerns going in with the defection of longtime judge Simon Cowell and the dismissal of Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi, but the addition of judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, and the selection of a group of performers generally proclaimed to be an improvement, produced another successful season.

With a much steeper decline in 18-49 from season eight to season nine, Fox execs were more than happy with the results.

While CBS and NBC offered mostly reruns, ABC’s lineup consisted of season finales — many of them going head-to-head against “Idol.” Best for the Alphabet was a 9 p.m. “Modern Family” (4.1/11, 10.2m), while an 8 o’clock “The Middle” (2.2/7, 7.4m) also finished its season.

Hourlong “Cougar Town” (2.0/5, 5.1) had an unusual 9:30 start time. That was followed by a 10:30 “Happy Endings” (1.7/4, 4m). Latter had been on the renewal bubble but ABC Entertainment Group prexy Paul Lee decided to bring it back for a second season.

The series-ending episode of “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” (2.0/5, 7.5m) at 10 p.m. was top show for the Eye. Spinoff was preceded by a pair of “The Big Bang Theory” repeats and “Criminal Minds.”

Fox is hoping some of the “Idol” momentum rubs off on “So You Think You Can Dance,” which begins its summer season tonight.