By James Hibberd
Updated May 15, 2012 at 04:04 PM EDT
Stern 320
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Surprise: NBC’s America’s Got Talent premiered lower in the ratings this year despite the high-profile addition of Howard Stern as the show’s new judge.

Monday’s two-hour Got Talent returned to 10.3 million viewers and a 3.6 rating, down 16 percent from last year. EW’s Ken Tucker suggested Stern’s performance was almost too nice.

Before everybody points fingers at Stern, however, here’s a big mitigating factor: Last year Got Talent premiered at the very end of May and was paired with The Voice. This year, Got Talent faced a full boat of competition from rival networks, so the talent competition might have returned lower in the ratings due to the scheduling change. NBC points out last night’s rating matches Got Talent‘s performance two years ago. At 10 p.m., NBC’s Smash (6.1 million, 1.8) finale was steady. [NBC, ABC and Fox’s 2012-13 fall schedules posted here].

Got Talent was up against CBS’ one-hour HIMYM finale (8.5 million, 3.6), up 9 percent, and the finales of Two and a Half Men (11.3 million, 3.8) and Mike & Molly (11.6 million, 3.3). Men was steady while Molly was up 6 percent. The finale of Hawaii Five-0 (11.3 million, 2.7) jumped 17 percent.

NBC wasn’t the only network to launch a summer reality show to lower ratings last night: ABC’s The Bachelorette (8.3 million, 2.5) came back 11 percent lower than last year. Also Monday: Fox’s Bones finale (7.1 million, 1.9) was steady. The CW’s Gossip Girl (1.2 million, 0.6) was up for its last episode of the season, while Hart of Dixie (1.5 million, 0.6) was unchanged.

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America's Got Talent

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