TiVo users ‘Idol’s’ big loser

Times Staff Writer

The results are in on “American Idol,” and the Fox juggernaut’s ratings are down significantly from its finale last year. According to Nielsen Media Research’s national numbers, Wednesday’s “Idol” drew an audience of 30.7 million. While that is certainly hefty, last year 36.4 million people watched Taylor Hicks win the singing competition.

These ratings reflected what has been an overall drop-off in television viewing this spring, which the networks have attributed to the earlier-than-usual switch to daylight savings along with the growth in DVR usage to time-shift programming.

On Wednesday, some of those same DVR users were cut off from the “Idol” finale’s denouement, when Jordin Sparks was crowned over Blake Lewis. The live broadcast ran until 10:09 p.m., and Sparks’ win was left until the dwindling minutes of the program, which DVR users would have missed unless they were technologically savvy enough to program their recorders to add in that cushion of time.

As one aced-out viewer griped in a message board on the fan site “I was smart enough to program my DVR to go over by 5 minutes, but not smart enough to go for 10 minutes.”


On Thursday afternoon, Fox issued a statement apologizing to viewers who missed the end of “Idol.” “We’re sorry that DVR users may have missed the conclusion,” it read in part. “It was always our intention to bring the show in on time, but just as with any live sports, variety, awards or entertainment event, there is no way to absolutely guarantee that the show will end exactly on the hour. Fox and the producers apologize to those viewers who were inconvenienced.”

Last season’s finale ran over by four minutes, and the previous two also went over. TiVo, which got complaints from disgruntled subscribers, also issued a statement instructing viewers to learn from this experience. TiVo spokeswoman Katie Ho wrote in an e-mail: “At TiVo we’re huge ‘American Idol’ fans too, and some of us also missed the last few minutes. Had we known the program would run over the allotted time, we definitely would have alerted our subscribers to pad a few extra minutes of recording time, as insurance.

“Be it the Oscars, the Grammys, assorted sporting events, or ‘American Idol,’ some events run long.”

Times staff writers Scott Collins and Maria Elena Fernandez contributed to this report.