An average of 30.7 million total viewers watched 17-year-old Glendale, AZ-native Jordin Sparks become American Idol's sixth champion during Fox's live two-hour Wednesday night broadcast of Idol's sixth season finale.  The finale also scored an 11.5/31 rating/share in the Adults 18-49 demographic.

While Idol's sixth season ratings numbers may seem impressive, they're actually somewhat low by Idol standards -- last year, nearly six million more viewers watched Taylor Hicks become the show's fifth season champion.  American Idol's 124 minute fifth season finale averaged 36.4 million viewers and a 11.5/31 rating/share the Adults 18-49 demographic.

Despite the relative ratings drop, Idol's sixth season finale still beat the combined performance of the rest of the big five broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, and The CW -- in numerous key demographic areas, including Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34, Teens, and total viewers.  As one would expect, Idol's sixth season finale ratings also grew as the night progressed and averaged about 35 million total viewers during its 9:30-10PM ET/PT half-hour.

In comparison to Wednesday night's finale, Tuesday night's live 8-9PM ET/PT broadcast of Idol's final sixth season performance episode averaged 24.5 million total viewers and a 9.3/27 rating/share among Adults 18-49.

Back in January, Idol's sixth season premiere averaged 37.3 million total viewers, making it the most watched debut in the reality show's history.  Unfortunately for Fox, the same cannot be said about the sixth season's finale.  In addition to averaging fewer total viewers than last season's finale, Idol's sixth season also came up more than 10 million viewers short of the show's most-watched finale -- the May 21, 2003 broadcast in which 38.1 million total viewers watched Ruben Studdard defeat Clay Aiken to win Idol 2's title.

Although it fell well short of last year's figure, the sixth season finale's 30.7 million total viewers average still ranks as Idol's third highest finale viewership figure.   In 2005, 30.3 million total viewers watched Carrie Underwood beat Bo Bice while 2004's Fantasia Barrino versus Diana DeGarmo finale averaged 28.8 million viewers.

Over 19 weeks, last year's fifth season Tuesday and Wednesday American Idol broadcasts averaged 31.2 million and 30.2 million viewers respectively.  However while the sixth season's early season episodes outpaced last year's comparable broadcasts in the ratings, the show's ratings slumped during the later stages of the finals. 

Heading into this week's final broadcasts, American Idol's 18 sixth season Tuesday broadcasts had averaged 30.3 million viewers (about 900,000 viewers less than last season) while the show's 18 Wednesday broadcasts had averaged 30.6 million viewers (about a 400,000 increase over last season) -- a change thought to be an indication that viewers didn't find this season's finalists as compelling (particularly once the finalist that had generated the most buzz -- Sanjaya Malakar -- was eliminated in mid-April).

Despite the ratings slip, American Idol still ends the 2006-2007 television as the No. 1 show among both total viewers and the Adults 18-49 demographic for the third straight year.  During the 2003-2004 season -- the last time Idol wasn't ranked No. 1 in both rankings -- it still ranked No. 1 among Adults 18-49 but finished No. 2 behind CBS' CSI drama among total viewers.

Somewhat ironically, the only other reality show to ever finish a television season No. 1 among total viewers was Survivor: The Australian Outback, which ranked No. 1 for the 2000-2001 season and served as the powerful Thursdays at 8PM ET/PT lead-in that helped propel CSI -- at the time a newly relocated less-than-smash-hit freshman series that CBS had been previously airing in the obsure Fridays at 9PM ET/PT time period -- up the ratings charts.