33.7 million watch Ruben defeat Clay on ''Idol'' -- That's more than watched the Oscars this year

By Gary Susman
Updated May 22, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Looks like more people tuned in to see whether Ruben would beat Clay than whether Nicole Kidman would beat Renée Zellweger for Best Actress. According to early Nielsen estimates, some 33.7 million viewers tuned in to Fox to see Wednesday’s ”American Idol” finale, with as many as 40 million watching during the final half hour, when Ryan Seacrest finally announced Ruben Studdard’s victory over Clay Aiken. That’s more than the 33.1 million who tuned in to ABC’s broadcast of the Academy Awards in March, usually the year’s most-watched entertainment program. It’s also in line with the 40 million who watched the “Joe Millionaire” season finale on Fox earlier this year, and well above the 23 million who watched Kelly Clarkson’s victory during the first season of ”Idol” last summer.

TV viewers didn’t know Tuesday night whether Ruben would beat Clay in the neck-and-neck final competition on ”American Idol,” but both of them beat Adolf Hitler. According to Nielsen, some 25.7 million people watched Tuesday’s episode of ”Idol” on Fox, more than twice as many as watched the conclusion of CBS’ miniseries ”Hitler: The Rise of Evil” or ”Frasier” on NBC.

Tuesday’s ”Idol” finals also boosted the season finale for ”24.” Some 14.2 million viewers stuck around after ”Idol” to watch the end of Kiefer Sutherland’s eventful day. Meanwhile, over on UPN, 4.9 million watched the very last episode of ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” well above the show’s seasonal average of 3.8 million.

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