The grand final of the fourth series of "Australian Idol" on Sunday night (Nov. 26) drew 2.2 million viewers, according to official figures released today (Nov. 28). The program gave free-to-air Ten N

The grand final of the fourth series of "Australian Idol" on Sunday night (Nov. 26) drew 2.2 million viewers, according to official figures released today (Nov. 28). The program gave free-to-air Ten Network a 32.4% share of viewers for the night, and ranked as the 15th most-watched show of 2006.

In comparison, the 2005 final attracted 1.9 million viewers. The end of the 2003 and 2004 seasons saw 3.3 million viewers tune in.

After last year's lacklustre ratings, producers Fremantle Media and Grundy Television revamped the format. For the first time, entrants could be 30 years old and play instruments, and auditions were also held in regional centers such as Alice Springs, Broken Hill and Byron Bay.

This year, "Australian Idol" helped Ten Network increase its night-time audience by 2.6% and gain viewers in the key advertiser target 16 - 39 and 18 - 49 demographics.

The 2006 winner was Damien Leith, a 30-year old married chemist from Ireland who was temporarily living in Sydney. Sony BMG Music Entertainment Australia made his debut single "Night Of My Life" available for digital download minutes after the final's telecast. It racked in-store yesterday. In a break from tradition, Leith is allowed two months to cut his debut album, rather than rush-release it for Christmas.

Sony BMG indicates it may also sign runner-up Jessica Mauboy, a 17-year old schoolgirl from Darwin. R&B singer Guy Sebastian, the first "Idol" winner, plans to work with her.

Past winners and runners-up of the show have had mixed success. Sebastian sold 420,000 units of his debut album "Just As I Am" (2004), 82,000 of "Beautiful Life" (2005) and 50,000 of "Closer To The Sun," which debuted at No. 4 on the Australian Recording Industry Assn. chart mid-October.

Pop-country singer Shannon Noll, 2003's runner-up, shifted 350,000 units of "That's What I'm Talking About" (2004) and 210,000 of "Lift" (2005). His Australian chart topping debut-single "What About Me" reached No. 2 in Ireland.

Soul balladeer Anthony Callea, runner up 2004, sold 140,000 units of his self-titled debut. His sophomore set "A New Chapter" was released Nov. 25.

Country gospel vocalist Casey Donovan, who won in 2004, was dropped by Sony BMG this August following low sales after her debut album "For You" (2004), which sold 210,000.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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