‘American Idol’ Finale Down 44% From Last Year

'The Office' is up about 40% from last week as it wraps; 'Big Bang,' 'Scandal' close winners too

American Idol finale

On a busy Thursday crowded with finales throughout the night, Fox prevailed in demos with “American Idol” but the music contest plummeted to a low for a season-ender. CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” closed out its socko season as the night’s top-rated program, NBC’s “The Office” surged about 40% week to week to hit a roughly 19-month high as it wrapped its nine-season run, and ABC’s “Scandal” closed out the night a winner.

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The busiest 15 minutes of the night came at the outset of the 10 o’clock hour, which saw the ends of “Grey’s Anatomy” at 10:02, “American Idol” at 10:08 and then “The Office” at 10:15. The evening also included the season finales for CBS’ “Elementary” and CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” and “Beauty and the Beast.” As a result, there was a lot of cannibalization, and DVR playback numbers figure to be especially high for all of the top programs on the night.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, Fox’s “American Idol” averaged a 3.6 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 and 14.3 million viewers overall from 8 to 10:08 p.m.  Its 12th-season finale was down 44% below last year in 18-49 (6.4) and more than 30% lower in total viewers (from 21.5 million).

This season’s conclusion didn’t figure to come close to last year as the show was trending about 25% below its year-ago pace heading into the reveal of its winner. “Idol” certainly wasn’t helped by airing its conclusion on a Thursday for the first time, with its lengthy duration meaning it opposed (at various time) the series finale of “The Office” and the season finales of “The Big Bang Theory,” “Elementary,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.”

At CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” (4.4 rating/16 share in adults 18-49, 14.8 million viewers overall) was easily Thursday’s No. 1 program in 18-49 and 25-54 (5.6/17) and also appears to have beaten out Fox’s “Idol” as the most-watched program overall. “Big Bang,” which typically doesn’t see any boost for its finale, was down a little from last week. It was followed by a repeat “Big Bang” (3.2/10 in 18-49, 11.6 million viewers overall) and the two-hour season finale of first-year drama “Elementary” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 8.9 million viewers overall), with the latter in line with last week’s hourlong average.

Preliminary numbers are sketchy for NBC’s 9-10:15 p.m. series finale of “The Office,” which averaged a 2.9/8 in 18-49 and 5.4 million viewers overall in the 9 o’clock hour, and will probably finish at around a 3.3 when the nationals come in later today. The comedy figures to be up roughly 40% week to week for its best 18-49 score since early in the 2011-12 season. In the 9 o’clock hour, at least, “The Office” (2.9/8) and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.0/8) — shows that bowed during the same week in March 2005 — were neck and neck.

Similarly murky is the first-season finale of “Hannibal,” which appears to have averaged about a 1.4 demo rating in 18-49 and 3 million viewers overall from 10:15 to 11.

Earlier in the evening for NBC, an hourlong retrospective of “The Office” averaged a 2.0/7 in 18-49 and 4.4 million viewers overall.

At ABC, “Wipeout” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.8 million viewers overall) was followed by the season finales of “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 8.6 million viewers overall) and “Scandal” (3.2/9 in 18-49, 9.1 million million viewers overall). This was the lowest finale to date for “Grey’s,” but it hung in there opposite the brutal competition and was in line with last week. And at 10, “Scandal” (3.2/9 in 18-49, 9.1 million viewers overall) remained hot, winning its hour in demos and matching or slightly exceeding its averages of last week when it didn’t face nearly as tough competition; if it holds in the nationals, this would be the largest-ever overall audience for the second-year series.

There was no real week to week change for CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.2 million viewers overall) or “Beauty and the Beast” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 1.3 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 3.4/11; CBS, 2.6/8; ABC, 2.4/7; NBC, 2.2/6; Univision, 1.5/4; CW, 0.8/2.

In total viewers: Fox, 13.6 million; CBS, 10.4 million; ABC, 7.2 million; NBC, 4.4 million; Univision, 3.6 million; CW, 1.8 million.