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‘American Idol’ Fans Crown Taylor Hicks Winner

May 25, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Fans of Fox’s “American Idol” crowned Taylor Hicks winner of the talent show Wednesday night, delivering more votes for the two finalists than any candidate for U.S. president has ever received.

The 29-year-old Alabaman with signature gray hair beat out Katharine McPhee, a 21-year-old from Sherman Oaks, Calif. Together, they drew 63.4 million votes from fans of the show, which ended its fifth season.

The two-hour season finale scored a 21.5 rating and 32 share in some markets Wednesday, according to Nielsen Media Research, blowing away its competition.

The popularity of “Idol” has helped make Fox the No.1 network among viewers in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. The singing contest has also bolstered other programs on Fox’s schedule, boosting ratings for “House,” which struggled on its own and won new fans after being placed behind “Idol” last season.

“Idol” premiered as a summer series in June 2002 and, unlike other reality shows such as NBC’s “The Apprentice” and ABC’s “The Bachelor,” has continued to win new fans. The show, which lets viewers choose the winners, generated hundreds of millions of votes in its fifth season.

American viewers have embraced the program and made it a launching pad for the careers of winners and runners-up, with the first American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, becoming a multiplatinum, Grammy-winning recording artist. Other contestants have gone on to careers on Broadway, and competitors including Clay Aiken, Fantasia Barrino and Ruben Studdard have become household names.

In its first half-hour beginning at 8 p.m. (ET), “Idol” garnered a 17.6 rating and 28 share in the roughly 50 markets metered overnight by Nielsen. That audience grew to a 25.1 rating and 35 share by the 9:30 p.m. half-hour. Preliminary national ratings will be released Thursday.

Most of the broadcast competition went with series repeats or movies as competition for “Idol.” ABC scheduled the two-hour premiere of drama “Lost” from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., garnering an 11.3 rating and 17 share.

“Idol” has given a lift to Fox’s ratings each year when it kicks off, boosting the network from third or fourth place among the younger viewers prized by advertisers at the beginning of the season to the top of the heap for two seasons in a row.

The show is also driving business to other areas of Fox’s parent company, News Corp. The “Idol” Web site is one of the most popular TV series-based destinations on the Internet. It also has propelled the careers of judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

The series is executive produced by Simon Fuller, founder of 19 Entertainment; FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz; 19 Television President Nigel Lythgoe; and Ken Warwick.