NEW YORK (AP) – Fantasia Barrino wears the “American Idol” crown, but last year’s winner, Ruben Studdard, still has some bragging rights.

An estimated 31.4 million people tuned in to the talent show’s season finale Wednesday night, down from the 33.7 million who watched the 2003 faceoff between Studdard and Clay Aiken, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Fox executives say this doesn’t necessarily mean their most popular series is losing popularity.

The finale aired in the fourth week of May this year, unlike the third last year, and the number of people watching TV in the evening naturally decreases in the summer, said Fox spokesman Scott Grogin.

Viewership for the full season of “American Idol” is up 16 percent over last year, although less among youthful demographics, he said.

A tearful Barrino, 19, of High Point, N.C., beat 16-year-old Diana DeGarmo, of Snellville, Ga., in the two-hour finale. Fox said more than 65 million votes were cast across the country.

On the Net:

AP-ES-05-27-04 1815EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.