A two-hour American Idolfinale that saw 17-year-old Jordin Sparks crowned the sixth Idolwinner -- over Blake Lewis -- drew a 17.2 rating and a 28 share Wednesday night representing 29.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen overnight ratings. (A ten-minute overrun was not taken into account in the overnights. Final figures should push the result somewhat higher.) While those numbers were impressive, they paled compared to those for last year's finale, which saw 36.4 million people tune in. Giving the talent contest some solid competition was the two-hour season finale of ABC's Lostwhich averaged a 7.9/13, or 13.66 million viewers. Even a repeat of CSI: NYon CBS performed well, pulling a 7.1/12 or 10.22 million viewers. By contrast, NBC barely got out of the starting gate. A repeat of a two-hour Saturday Night Livespecial registered a 2.8/5 -- barely a blip on the Nielsen scale. It was followed by a Datelineinterview with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, which recorded a 3.3/5.


While Wednesday's night's American Idolratings may have been off a bit from last year's, the rates that Fox TV charged advertisers for spots on the finale were not. Advertising Age reported Wednesday that a 30-second spot on the final show cost advertisers $1.3 million, the same price it charged for last year's finale. Lisa Quan, the director of audience analysis at ad-buyers Magna Global, told the trade publication: "The program is five years old now, so it's bound to have some decline. ... Not that many programs are ever going to keep growing for seven, even 10 years. Even 'Seinfeld' lost some viewers toward the end. Decline happens eventually."


Rosie O'Donnell appeared to suggest on her website today that she may depart The Viewquickly. After a fierce on-air argument with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, O'Donnell wrote in her all-lower-case, free-verse style, "it may be time / to be done / endings r hard 4 all / emotions r high / talking is tough." She emphasized, "i am glad 2 b out." She had originally said that she would be leaving the show when her contract expires on June 21. She said she will not be appearing on today's (Thursday) program because it is her partner Kelli Carpenter's 40th birthday. On the program, O'Donnell appeared incensed that Hasselbeck had failed to come to her defense against conservative critics who accused her of calling U.S. troops terrorists. (She had compared U.S. action in Iraq to Islamic terrorist attacks, rhetorically asking, "Who are the real terrorists in Iraq.") "I have told you that I support the troops," O'Donnell said. "I asked you if you believed what the Republican pundits were saying. You said nothing, and that's cowardly." Hasselbeck fired back: "I'll tell you what's cowardly -- asking a rhetorical question that you never answer yourself. That is cowardly."


With automobile manufacturers blamed for drastically cutting their television spending during the first quarter, network television suffered a 6.5-percent downturn in total revenue versus the same quarter a year ago, Broadcasting & Cablereported today (Thursday), citing figures from a joint study by the Television Bureau of Advertising and TNS Media Intelligence. Syndicated television saw a 5.9-percent decline while local broadcast television slumped 3 percent.


Don Hewitt, a fixture at CBS since 1948 -- among other achievements, he directed Edward R. Murrow's See It Nowprogram and was the creator/executive producer of 60 Minutesuntil 2004 -- will switch to rival NBC to executive produce The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, to be co-hosted by the Todayshow's Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira in December, NBC announced Wednesday. In a statement, the 85-year-old Hewitt said, "This 75th celebration will warm viewers' hearts with the magical holiday spirit that has created wonderful memories for more than 62 million people since its inception in 1933; I am thrilled to be involved."