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"American Idol" finale audience dips
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The "American Idol" finale drew its smallest audience since 2004 as an estimated 28.8 million viewers tuned in Wednesday to watch underdog Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert, the Fox network said on Thursday.
The singing competition broadcast on News Corp's Fox network remains the most-watched TV show in the United States despite a decline in ratings over the last two years.
The preliminary figures from Nielsen Media Research for Wednesday's two-hour climax to the show's eighth season in prime time compares to the nearly 32 million people who tuned in to last year's finale.
The twice-weekly show has averaged 26.3 million viewers per episode during its five-month run in 2009. At the height of its popularity in 2006 the series, in which viewers vote for their favorite contestant, drew an audience of about 30.8 million.
Audiences fell off despite tweaks by "Idol" producers aimed at freshening the show, including the addition of a fourth judge -- songwriter Kara DioGuardi -- to the panel this year.
The triumph of acoustic guitar player Allen, 23, over musical theater performer Lambert, was one of the most closely fought finales and generated a record high of nearly 100 million votes. Lambert, 27, had been widely regarded as the favorite going into the finale.
Allen wins a recording contract along with his "American Idol" crown, but Lambert also is expected to be signed to a record label.
"American Idol" is a joint production of 19 Entertainment, a unit of CKX Inc, and FremantleMedia, a division of British-based RTL group, which is controlled by media giant Bertelsmann AG.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Beech)