Originally created 09/19/02

HBO draws record ratings for premiere of 'The Sopranos'



NEW YORK -- HBO drew the largest audience in its 30-year history for Sunday night's season premiere of "The Sopranos," a turnout that sent tremors through the television world.

The episode drew an estimated 13.4 million viewers, and was believed to be the first time an HBO telecast drew a larger audience than any of the broadcast networks at the same time.

HBO, as a pay cable service, is available in about one-third of the nation's homes with televisions.

"This is higher than I thought we had the potential to reach," said David Baldwin, HBO's executive vice president for program planning. The show appeared to bring in a lot of viewers who might not otherwise have been watching television for the night, he said.

HBO's previous audience peak came for a Mike Tyson heavyweight fight in 1989, the network said.

Network executives were nervous about the 16-month break between new episodes of the mob drama. Instead, the wait only appeared to whet the audience's appetite for the fourth season.

The show's third season premiere was its previous high-water mark in the ratings, with an estimated 11.3 million viewers.

The numbers threatened to overshadow next week's start of the broadcast networks' new fall season. This was the first time HBO began a run of new "The Sopranos" episodes in the fall.

More than the ratings, Baldwin said HBO is eager to see whether the attention will translate into new paying subscribers - the basis of HBO's business.

The return of "Monday Night Football," which had a little more than 19 million viewers on ABC, was the week's most popular prime-time program.

For the week, CBS averaged 9.6 million viewers (6.6 rating, 11 share), ABC averaged 9 million viewers (6.0, 10), NBC had 7.9 million (5.5, 10), Fox had 7.1 million (4.4, 8), UPN had 3.4 million and the WB had 3.2 million (both 2.1, 4) and Pax TV had 1.5 million (1.1, 2).

NBC's "Nightly News" won the evening news ratings race, averaging 9.2 million viewers (6.7 rating, 14 share). ABC's "World News Tonight" had 8.8 million viewers (6.3, 14) and the "CBS Evening News" had 7.5 million (5.3, 11).

A ratings point represents 1,067,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 106.7 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

Prime-time ratings compiled by Nielsen Media Research for Sept. 9-15. Top 20 listings include the week's ranking, with rating for the week and season-to-date rankings in parentheses.

An "X" in parentheses denotes a one-time-only presentation. The rating is the percentage of the nation's estimated 106.7 million TV homes. Each ratings point represents 1,067,000 households.

1. (8) "NFL Monday Night Football: Pittsburgh at New England," ABC, 12.8, 13.6 million homes.

2. (15) "NFL Monday Showcase," ABC, 10.9, 11.6 million homes.

3. (17) "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation-Monday," CBS, 9.7, 10.4 million homes.

4. (2) "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 9.4, 10.0 million homes.

4. (7) "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS, 9.4, 10.0 million homes.

6. (X) "9/11," CBS, 8.0, 8.6 million homes.

6. (13) "Becker," CBS, 8.0, 8.6 million homes.

8. (18) "60 Minutes," CBS, 7.9, 8.4 million homes.

9. (36) "Dateline NBC-Tuesday," NBC, 7.8, 8.4 million homes.

10. (X) "ABC News-9/11, Part 1," ABC, 7.5, 8.0 million homes.

10. (3) "Friends," NBC, 7.5, 8.0 million homes.

10. (36) "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," NBC, 7.5, 8.0 million homes.

10. (X) "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," NBC, 7.5, 8.0 million homes.

14. (43) "Primetime Thursday," ABC, 7.2, 7.7 million homes.

15. (75) "Forensic Files," NBC, 7.1, 7.5 million homes.

16. (23) "Frasier," NBC, 7.0, 7.5 million homes.

17. (73) "Big Brother 3-Thursday," CBS, 6.9, 7.3 million homes.

18. (43) "60 Minutes II," CBS, 6.6, 7.1 million homes.

18. (X) "Dateline NBC," NBC, 6.6, 7.0 million homes.

18. (18) "Will & Grace," NBC, 6.6, 7.0 million homes.

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18. (29) "Yes, Dear," CBS, 6.6

22. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," NBC, 6.5

23. (X) "Will & Grace-Thursday," NBC, 6.4

24. (X) "Concert For America," NBC, 6.3

25. "Dateline NBC-Sunday," NBC, 6.1

26. "JAG," CBS, 6.0

26. "The King of Queens," CBS, 6.0

28. "20/20-Friday," ABC, 5.9

28. (X) "ABC Special Presentation-Tuesday: Report From Ground Zero," ABC, 5.9

28. "Scrubs-Thursday," NBC, 5.9

31. "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back," Fox, 5.7

32. "The Agency-Saturday," CBS, 5.6

32. (X) "Fox Movie-Sunday: Lost World Jurassic Park Á2," Fox, 5.6

34. (X) "ABC Big Picture Show-Sunday: Notting Hill," ABC, 5.5

34. "The Guardian," CBS, 5.5

36. "Dateline NBC-Friday," NBC, 5.4

37. "ABC Big Picture Show-Thursday: Liar, Liar," ABC, 5.2

37. "Judging Amy," CBS, 5.2

39. (X) "Becker-Sunday," CBS, 5.1

40. (X) "ABC News-9/11, part 2," ABC, 5.0

40. "CBS Sunday Movie: Message in a Bottle," CBS, 5.0

42. "The Drew Carey Show," ABC, 4.9

42. "ER," NBC, 4.9

42. (X) "TV's Funniest Game Shows," Fox, 4.9

45. "According to Jim-Tuesday 2," ABC, 4.8

45. "Big Brother 3-Saturday," CBS, 4.8

45. "Cops 2: Extreme Cops," Fox, 4.8

45. "The District," CBS, 4.8

49. "That '70s Show," Fox, 4.7

50. "Whose Line is it Anyway?," ABC, 4.6

51. "48 Hours," CBS, 4.5

51. (X) "ABC College Football: Nebraska at Penn State/Texas at North Carolina," ABC, 4.5

53. "Fear Factor," NBC, 4.4

54. (X) "Frasier-Tuesday," NBC, 4.3

55. (X) "America's Funniest Home Videos," ABC, 4.2

55. "Cops: Grand Theft Auto," Fox, 4.2

55. "Grounded For Life," Fox, 4.2

58. "According to Jim-Tuesday 1," ABC, 4.1

59. "America's Funniest Home Videos," ABC, 4.0

59. (X) "Fox Movie Special-Friday: Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo," Fox, 4.0

59. (X) "Street Magicians Finally Revealed," Fox, 4.0

62. (X) "All New Bloopers-Sunday," ABC, 3.8

62. (X) "Just Shoot Me-Tuesday," NBC, 3.8

62. (X) "Magics Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed 5," Fox, 3.8

62. "Third Watch," NBC, 3.8

66. "Crossing Jordan," NBC, 3.7

66. "World Wrestling Entertainment Smackdown!," UPN, 3.7

68. (X) "Forensic Files-Saturday," NBC, 3.6

69. "Providence," NBC, 3.5

70. (X) "I Love Lucy's 50th Anniversary," CBS, 3.3

70. (X) "Meet My Folks-Saturday," NBC, 3.3

72. (X) "Dog Eat Dog-Saturday," NBC, 3.2

73. (X) "WB Family Presentation: My Dog Skip," WB, 3.0

74. "Family Affair," WB, 2.9

75. (X) "Fox Movie Special-Thursday: Lost and Found," Fox, 2.6

76. "One On One," UPN, 2.5

77. "Girlfriends," UPN, 2.4

77. "Girlfriends," UPN, 2.4

79. "Reba," WB, 2.3

79. (X) "Reba-Friday," WB, 2.3

81. (X) "7th Heaven-Monday," WB, 2.2

81. (X) "Family Affair-Encore," WB, 2.2

83. "Gilmore Girls," WB, 2.1

83. "The Parkers," UPN, 2.1

83. "Smallville," WB, 2.1

86. "7th Heaven," WB, 2.0

87. "UPN's Movie Friday: The Fifth Element," UPN, 1.9

88. "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," UPN, 1.7

88. "Diagnosis Murder-Wednesday," Pax, 1.7

88. "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment-Thursday," WB, 1.7

91. "Charmed-Sunday," WB, 1.6

91. "Diagnosis Murder-Thursday," Pax, 1.6

93. "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," UPN, 1.5

93. "Diagnosis Murder-Tuesday," Pax, 1.5

93. "Gilmore Girls," WB, 1.5

96. "Doc-Sunday," Pax, 1.4

97. "Friday Night Flix: Tornado Warning," Pax, 1.3

97. "Just Cause-Sunday," Pax, 1.3

99. "Off Centre," WB, 1.1

100. "America's Favorite Movies: Rio Bravo," Pax, 1.0

100. "Angel-Sunday," WB, 1.0

100. (X) "Enterprise," UPN, 1.0

103. "Diagnosis Murder-Friday," Pax, 0.9

103. "Doc-Tuesday," Pax, 0.9

105. "Diagnosis Murder-Monday," Pax, 0.8

105. (X) "Doc-Wednesday," Pax, 0.8

105. "Weakest Link," Pax, 0.8

108. "Candid Camera-Sunday," Pax, 0.7

108. "It's a Miracle," Pax, 0.7

110. "Promised Land-Monday," Pax, 0.5

On the Net:

Nielsen Media Research Web site:

http://www.nielsenmedia.com