LOS ANGELES Lauren Alaina may have won the hearts of "American Idol" judges with her final performances, but TV viewers were more interested in "Dancing With the Stars," according to early ratings figures for the two big rival shows.
And according to some predictions, Scotty McCreery may emerge the ultimate winner on Wednesday after public votes are counted, despite an emotional performance by Alaina that she dedicated to her mother, and a last minute vocal scare.
Preliminary Nielsen figures on Wednesday showed ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" becoming the first TV show ever to beat an "American Idol" part one finale.
Some 21 million viewers watched football player Hines Ward win the "Dancing" mirrorball trophy on Tuesday night, compared to 20 million who tuned in to watch country teen singers Alaina and Scotty McCreery perform on the Fox network for the 2011 "American Idol" title.
Now in its 10th year, "American Idol" has been a ratings juggernaut for Fox and the nation's most-watched TV show for the last seven years.
But despite reversing a ratings slide this year after a
major revamp, the audience for Tuesday's part one "American Idol" finale was one of the lowest since the show's inaugural season in 2002.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday in a two-hour broadcast which is expected to feature performances by Lady Gaga, U2, Judas Priest, Tony Bennett and country superstar Tim McGraw, among others.
New "Idol" judges Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler -- who both have new records to promote -- are also rumored to be taking the stage in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Alaina, 16, the youngest ever "Idol" top 2 contestant, was deemed the clear winner by the judges on Tuesday after the show's first all-country music finale.
"Lauren gets it hands down," Tyler declared.
But McCreery, 17, was predicted the winner by a clear margin by DialIdol.com. which measures the busy signals on telephones used to cast votes and text messages. The system is considered less reliable this year however, now that online voting has been introduced.
Music site MTV.com, which called Tuesday's performance show "a super-boring affair" for those who are not fans of country music, also called it for McCreery, based on his overall showing during the last five months.
Whoever wins on Wednesday will be the first country music champion since Carrie Underwood took the title in 2005, and went on to become the top "Idol" earner in terms of record sales and tours.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant)