The sixth season of American Idol premiered on the Fox Broadcasting Company as a two-night, four-hour premiere special on January 16 and January 17, and ran until May 23, 2007. Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson returned to judge once again, and Ryan Seacrest returned as host. A new record of 74 million votes were cast in the finale round, and a new record of 609 million votes were cast in the entire season. Jordin Sparks won the competition with Blake Lewis as the first runner-up and Melinda Doolittle finishing third. Jordin Sparks is also the youngest winner of the competition, winning at age 17, as well as the first winner from outside the Southern United States. Sparks remained the last female winner until the twelfth season.