'American Idol' Loses TV Ratings Crown to Football

Is "American Idol" no longer the cultural titan it once was? The numbers are in for last night's season finale. Not even the notoriously kind Judge J.Lo would have been impressed.

For the first time in a long time, “Idol” won’t finish as the top-rated program in primetime. According to preliminary numbers, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” will go down as this season’s top-ranked program. The NFL game of the week averaged around 20.7 million viewers, while "Idol's" Wednesday edition averaged 19.7 million viewers this season. With big NFL ratings come big numbers for the league. Last December, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “the NFL pre-emptively renewed TV rights deals with CBS, Fox, and NBC for nine years (through 2022) at an average increase of 7 percent per network that will take revenue for the NFL from $1.93 billion annually to $3.1 billion by 2022.”

Wednesday night’s ‘Idol’ finale "delivered a preliminary 6.1/18 among adults 18-49." That's down 32% from last year. Preliminary numbers suggest the finale had 21.5 million viewers. What was once the new hotness has become old and busted. Circle of life, kids.

Industry site Deadline.com points out that this shouldn't come as a huge surprise. Throughout the year, the Fox reality show has been "tracking 30% lower than last season." But it isn't like the show was killing it last season. In fact, last season was (until now) the show's lowest-rated finale.  However, this year’s season finale did have the most votes of any finale, an indication that while the numbers may be dwindling, those who remain are more passionate than ever.

[Related: More on Last Night's "American Idol" Finale]

Of course, "American Idol" has been on the air for about a decade, so it's no wonder it's getting a little long in the tooth. New shows with similar setups like "The Voice" are heading in the opposite direction. The NBC competition ended its second season earlier this month with a 16% jump over its debut season. Its Season 2 finale earned 11.6 million viewers.

But its not just “The Voice” that is gunning for the “Idol” demographic. There’s “The X Factor” with former “Idol” judge Simon Cowell. “Duets” with one-time “Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson. And one mustn’t forget Howard Stern on “America’s Got Talent.” “Idol” has a long-term fight on its hands and the star power of J.Lo and Steven Tyler might not be enough. Perhaps another major shakeup is in order. Judge Weird Al, anyone?

Watch the crowning moment from last night's "American Idol" finale right here: