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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 9

(Photo credit Vince Bucci/FOX) The finale of "American Idol" drew its smallest audience since 2002 after a lackluster season that saw America's most-watched show lose its biggest star and posed challenges over how to recapture its sparkle.

An estimated 24.2 million viewers tuned in to the Fox network on Wednesday evening to watch Lee DeWyze beat Crystal Bowersox, and to bid farewell to British judge Simon Cowell -- an 18 percent drop from last year, according to preliminary ratings figures on Thursday.

The nine-year-old TV singing contest was the No.1 U.S. show of the night and has retained its top rating this season for the 7th consecutive year. But audiences were down nine percent this season to an average 23.9 million, compared to a 2006 high of about 30.8 million.

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