Television

America crowns Taylor Hicks its 5th 'Idol'; viewership hits 35.4 million

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MUMBAI: Twenty-nine-year old Taylor Hicks from Alabama beat LA gal Katharine McPhee to be crowned the American Idol in the finale of the fifth season. A whopping 63.4 million votes were cast and America made its choice. According to host Ryan Seacrest, Hicks took the majority of the fan votes, though he did not reveal how close McPhee came.

Taylor Hicks -- The winner takes it all!

Hicks now joins the likes of Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino, who have been previous season winners. However, the result of fifth season of American Idol doesn't come as a surprise as Hicks had wooed TV audiences with his raw singing style and boisterous personality.

Hicks foisted the ubiquitous catchphrase "Soul Patrol!" on an unsuspecting audience and turned it into a national movement. What Hicks has won is an RCA recording contract and his first single will be Do I Make You Proud.

Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks on judgement day
As for the network that airs the show in the US - Fox, the two weekly Idol episodes remain the top-rated shows in the US, raking in tens of millions of dollars for the network.

The American Idol seasons have been a ratings goldmine for Fox. The show has continued to rate high even in its fifth season and has given the network the biggest hit in prime time, propelling the broadcaster to first place this season in the ratings race for viewers aged 18 to 49.

'AMERICAN IDOL' FINALE DRAWS 35.4 MN VIEWERS

It was not only Taylor Hicks that emerged winner on American Idol's fifth season finale. Fox, too emerged as a major winner in terms of the ratings it clocked. According to Nielsen Media Research, the finale of Fox's two-hour American Idol special was a big hit among viewers, drawing an audience of 35.4 million people.

Idol opened at 8 pm with 27.4 million viewers, climbing steadily to a peak of 42.9 million in its final half-hour as Hicks edged past Katharine McPhee to take the crown.

This makes it the second most-watched Idol finale ever behind 2003's competition, which was watched by 38.1 million viewers. Last year's contest won by Carrie Underwood was seen by 30.3 million.

In Canada, CTV said the American Idol season finale peaked at 5.2 million viewers when Hicks was announced as winner.

The American Idol TV audience was only about two million viewers shy of the Oscars for being the most-watched television event of the year after the Super Bowl.

What has also added to the popularity and interest levels in American Idol through the seasons is the incessant coverage by the print, internet and television media.

Shows like Entertainment Tonight and Saturday Night Live give constant updates on every twist and turn on Idol. Dedicated websites and blogs have also kept the interest levels high. On the other hand, producers of the show claim that the success of season five came from the fact that they had a particularly good batch of talent.

The finale of the fifth season had plenty of star power with the likes of Ben Stiller, Heather Locklear, Mary J. Blige and David Hasselhoff. What's more, the Baywatch star got all teary eyed when Hicks was announced the winner. Prince too made a surprise appearance on the show and performed.

After the winner was announced, runner-up McPhee was reportedly quoted as saying that she hadn't expected to win and didn't have any regrets.

McPhee said she planned to take a week's break before heading for the American Idol tour with Hicks and the other finalists.

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