Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina

Viewers loved American Idol's Season 10 finale this big: The two-hour season-ender, which crowned Scotty McCreery as the new champion, averaged 29.3 million viewers, some 20 percent more than last year's finale, according to preliminary Nielsen figures.

American Idol recap: We have a winner!

Overnight ratings showed that some 24.22 million people tuned in for the 2010 culmination, when Lee DeWyze won and Simon Cowell said goodbye.

Long America's most-watched network program, the Fox singing-competition show has seen an erosion in its ratings in recent years. But this year, it made a comeback, despite — or because of — various changes: new blood at the judges table with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, lowering the minimum age to 15, and some reformatting. Its finale Wednesday, which ran to 10:07 p.m. EDT, was way up in total viewership, and its 9.2 rating was 12 percent higher in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 demographic, compared with last year.

For the night, Idol had 65 percent more viewers than all its network competition combined. Not only that: it outdid Dancing with the Stars, which averaged 20.97 million viewers over its two-hour finale the night before. And it will reign again as America's No. 1 prime time show once the final figures come out. Fox issued a statement Thursday, crowing about winning the key demo for a record seventh straight year.

Check out the rest of today's news

Among the shows that were trampled by Idol Wednesday night was a lineup of sitcom finales on ABC. In prime time's first hour, The Middle grabbed 7.43 million viewers, and a Modern Family repeat lured 6.05 million at 8:30. At 9/8c, the season's last first-run Modern Family episode had a viewership of 10.22 million, followed by the Cougar Town season-ender with 5.09 million.

In prime time's final hour, the Happy Endings' conclusion finished third (4.06 million viewers at 10:30) against two lame ducks: the series finales of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (7.52 million) and Law & Order: Los Angeles (5.58 million).