Teenage Country Crooner Scotty McCreery Crowned Fox’s 10th ‘American Idol’

Scotty McCreery, the 17-year-old country singer from North Carolina, was voted the 10th season winner of “American Idol,” the most-watched U.S. television show.

The crooner topped Lauren Alaina, 16, by receiving the majority of viewers’ record 122 million votes, host Ryan Seacrest said at the end of yesterday’s two-hour season finale.

“Never in my wildest dreams,” McCreery said. “I got to thank the Lord first though, he got me here.”

The pairing of the two country singers marked the youngest finals matchup in the show’s history. McCreery receives a recording contract with Vivendi SA (VIV)’s Universal Music Group. Jimmy Iovine, who runs Universal Music’s Interscope Records, helped contestants prepare for the competitions.

“It’s been a year since me and Lauren Alaina tried out,” McCreery said. “Me and her have been together since Day 1 and we’re gonna stay together.”

The show drew an estimated 29.3 million viewers, Fox said today, citing revised Nielsen Co. data. That represents a gain of 21 percent over last year’s close, the network said in a statement. The audience in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic sought by advertisers increased 12 percent, Fox said.

This season’s top 13 contestants performed during the results show broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles last night.

Season’s Ratings

James Durbin, who counts judge Steven Tyler among his influences, sang with heavy metal band Judas Priest, while Jacob Lusk performed gospel singer Kirk Franklin’s “I Smile” with Franklin and Gladys Knight. Casey Abrams was joined by actor Jack Black for a rendition of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

As of last week, “Idol” averaged 25 million viewers this season, 4 percent more than a year earlier, said Fox, citing data from Nielsen Co. It’s the first time in four years that the show has increased its audience.

The talent show helped News Corp.’s Fox close the TV season with its seventh straight win in the 18-to-49-year-old audience demographic that advertisers target. CBS is the most-watched network overall, based on Nielsen data.

Producers FremantleMedia North America and CKX Inc. (CKXE)’s 19 Entertainment retooled “Idol” this year, bringing in rocker Tyler and pop singer Jennifer Lopez as judges. The producers tapped Iovine to coach contestants on their performance skills.

Last-Minute Drama

The conclusion took on added drama before the final competition May 24 when Alaina had to seek medical treatment for problems with her voice. Haley Reinhart, who was eliminated last week, rehearsed before the telecast in case Alaina wasn’t able to take the stage. She recovered and performed three songs.

Last night, R&B star Beyonce joined some of the season’s female contestants to perform her Grammy award-winning “Crazy in Love.” Reinhart, the 20-year-old from Illinois, sang “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” with Tony Bennett before McCreery hit the stage with country singer Tim McGraw for a duet of “Live Like You Were Dying.” Alaina, from Georgia, performed “Before He Cheats” with Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood.

The show saluted Tyler and Lopez with video tributes and featured performances by Lopez’s husband, Marc Anthony, ‘70s star Tom Jones, Tyler, Lady Gaga and U2’s Bono and the Edge.

In September, Fox plans to air “The X-Factor,” a reality competition program that will feature Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, original “Idol” judges, evaluating contestants.

News Corp. (NWSA), based in New York and controlled by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch, rose 48 cents to $17.66 at 1:23 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The Class A shares had gained 18 percent this year before today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net; Nancy Moran in New York at nmoran@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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