American Idol took the headlines. Grey's Anatomy took the plunge.
While Idol's slippage dominated ratings coverage, the McDoctor show somewhat stealthily lost nearly a quarter of its audience, down 23 percent this past TV year to a series-low 14.4 million viewers.
That was the steepest drop suffered by any of TV's top hits for the strike-addled season that ended Wednesday. And, looking at the final Nielsen Media Research numbers, more than a few top shows suffered. Among them:
- CSI: Miami (down 21 percent to 13.1 million)
- CSI (down 19 percent to 16 million)
- Lost (down 15 percent to 11.7 million)
- House (down 12 percent to 16.2 million)
Idol, by comparison, was a survivor, especially on Tuesdays, when it averaged 27.8 million viewers, and dipped only 6 percent from last year.
Wednesday's Idol took a more substantial hit, down 11 percent, big finale or no, to 26.8 million.
The decline on that night allowed Tuesday's Idol to claim its first season-long win as TV's most watched show.
Grey's Anatomy, meanwhile, fell out of the top 10.
While the ABC drama went through the upheaval and off-season departure of Isaiah Washington, the numbers show its undoing was the strike.
Through early November, the show was TV's third biggest hit. Then came the strike, and there went 6 million viewers.
Grey's didn't even air its finale until last night, one night after the season officially ended. The episode would have helped the series' bottom line. The two-hour closer averaged an estimated 17.8 million, its best perfomance since the striking month of November.
Here are other ratings tidbits from the 2007-08 season:
- Ugly Betty (down 21 percent, to 8.7 million) and Lost are two other ABC shows that couldn't get their finales to air in time to count for '07-08.
- The strike makes Heroes' numbers almost impossible to read. The series aired only 11 episodes (including the premiere, which aired and counted twice), compared to 24 last season. Comparing apples to an orchard, the series was down 19 percent, to 11 million viewers.
- One show on the upswing was Desperate Housewives (up 2 percent, to 17.3 million), which bumped CSI as TV's most watched scripted show.
- Another show that wasn't down: 24. Of course, it didn't air, either.
- CSI didn't fall to second among scripted shows. It fell to third, behind House.
- Dancing With the Stars was up in the fall, but down in the spring. All together, it accounted for 40 percent of the top 10.
- Aided by Idol and some tantalizing promos, The Moment of Truth (14.2 million) was TV's most watched new show.
- Aided by Dancing With the Stars and Christina Applegate, Samantha Who? (11.2 million) was the No. 2 most watched new show.
- Oprah's Big Give (10.9 million) was the biggest show to not be invited back for next year, although ABC said the call was Oprah Winfrey's, not the network's, leaving CBS' Shark (10 million) as the most watched show to be forcibly removed from a schedule.
- If you only looked at the numbers, and not the shows, you'd never know why NBC canceled Bionic Woman (8.8 million) and renewed Chuck (7.9 million).
- In unplugging Bionic Woman, NBC offed its biggest freshman hit.
- Not to be outdone, the CW parted ways with its second biggest overall hit, Friday Night Smackdown (4.5 million).
- The forgotten ABC game show Duel (3.7 million) outdrew every single CW franchise, save Smackdown and America's Top Model (4.8 million for the fall cycle; 3.8 million for the spring).
- Gossip Girl was no match on Wednesday nights (2.2 million) for the mid-week installment of the Univision telenovela Pasion (3.9 million).
- It's unclear if the strike or mortality rates caught up to Diagnosis Murder reruns on ION. Last year, the top-rated episode averaged 809,000 viewers. This season, it could do no better than 459,000.
- For laughs and tears, here are the numbers from NBC's Thursday comedy lineup from 10 years ago: Friends (24 million), Union Square (19.9 million), Seinfeld (34.1 million) and Veronica's Closet (24.4 million).
- And here are the numbers from NBC's Thursday comedy lineup this past season: My Name Is Earl (6.9 million), 30 Rock (6 million), The Office (7.2 million) and Scrubs (5.8 million).
- A decade ago, Union Square got canceled because its audience of nearly 20 million just wasn't good enough. This year, Scrubs got canceled, and then picked up by ABC because its devoted audience of not quite 6 million seemed promising enough.
In the network race, Fox, as projected, ended the season with more total viewers (10.4 million) and more 18- to 49-year-old viewers than any other network.
More impressive, Fox was actually up—5 percent—in total viewers. Every other network was down, except for CBS, which was way down (18 percent).
CBS, nonetheless, was second in viewers (9.7 million), followed by ABC (8.5 million) and NBC (7.5 million).
Among young adults, ABC took second ahead of CBS, which finished ahead of NBC.
The CW (2.3 million) was down 23 percent in viewers, but managed to hold off the resurgent MyNetworkTV (1.1 million), which was up 33 percent.
Here's a look at the 10 most watched broadcast network prime-time shows for the 2007-08 season, according to Nielsen Media Research:
- American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 27.7 million viewers
- American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 26.8 million viewers
- Dancing With the Stars (Monday, fall edition), ABC, 21.2 million viewers
- Dancing With the Stars (Monday, spring edition), ABC, 19.17 million viewers
- Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday, fall edition), ABC, 19.16 million viewers
- Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday, spring edition), ABC, 17.8 million viewers
- Desperate Housewives, ABC, 17.3 million viewers
- House, Fox, 16.2 million viewers
- CSI, CBS, 16 million viewers
- Sunday Night Football, NBC, 15.9 million viewers