reports that the 2002-03 May Sweeps period ended Wednesday night on a very high note for FOX, as the finale of "American Idol" blew away its competition. The first hour of "Idol," featuring the mother of all recapping and foot-dragging, averaged 16.9/27 at 8PM. At 9PM, "American Idol" grew to a 20.3/29, with nearly 40 million people watching the final half-hour as Ruben Studdard was named the winner over Clay Aiken.

According to the Associated Press, the two hour finale averaged an estimated 33.7 million people. For comparison, that was a bigger audience than the 33.1 million people who watched the Academy Awards in March -- which according to Nielsen Media Research, is traditionally the most-watched entertainment event of the year.

Also airing at 9PM and operating in 'Idol's shadow at "The Bachelor: After the Final Rose," the afterglow episode of ABC's "The Bachelor," scored a 6.1/9. At 10PM ABC averaged 7.3/12 with "Extreme Makeover."