NEW YORK — Nearly 22 million TV viewers seems like a lot – but for an "American Idol" season-ender, it's a new low.

The crowd that tuned in Wednesday night when bluesy guitar man Phillip Phillips won the "Idol" crown constituted the smallest for an "Idol" finale in its history, according to final Nielsen Co. figures.

The audience of 21.5 million was down by nearly one-third from the 29.3 million viewers who saw country singer Scotty McCreery's victory a year ago, an audience total that had rebounded by 20 percent from the finale in 2010.

The Fox singing competition has experienced ratings erosion during this entire season, its 11th.

ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" finale show on Tuesday night also drew its lowest audience ever for a season-capper, averaging 17.5 million viewers, down 18 percent from a year ago.

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