Ratings: Near-Historic 'Sopranos' Coup

By DAVID BAUDER
The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 12, 2007; 6:06 PM

NEW YORK -- The 11.9 million viewers who watched "The Sopranos" finale brought HBO to the edge of a historic feat: a show on a pay cable network available in about 30 million homes was more popular last week than all but one show on the far larger world of broadcast television.

Only the premiere of NBC's "America's Got Talent," with 13 million viewers, did better, Nielsen Media Research said.

ABC, CBS and Fox are all available in 111 million homes for no extra charge, and nothing they aired last week did better than "The Sopranos."

It was the fourth most-watched episode of "The Sopranos" since the epic mob drama premiered on HBO in 1999, and best since the 2004 season premiere. With on-demand services, multiple showings on HBO this week and DVR recording, it's almost impossible to draw a bead on how many people will actually watch the finale.

And it seemed like everyone who watched had a strong opinion about the finale, which ended abruptly during a scene with Tony Soprano and his family at a diner.

With angry calls for creator David Chase to talk about his motives, he declined in an interview with The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. posted on Tuesday. Chase grew up in New Jersey, where the series was set.

"I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding to what is there," Chase told the newspaper.

"People get the impression that you're trying to (mess) with them, and it's not true. You're trying to entertain them," he said. "Anybody who wants to watch it, it's all there."

Chase also said he doubted he would make a movie version of the series. "I think we've kind of said it and done it," he said.

"The Sopranos" finale topped both Game 2 of the NBA Finals (8.6 million) and the Tony Awards (6.2 million) in direct competition Sunday night, Nielsen said.

Hit-starved NBC was encouraged by the showing of "America's Got Talent." It joined two other games, two versions of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" and NBC's "Deal or No Deal," among Nielsen's top 5.

For the week, CBS averaged 7.2 million viewers (4.9 rating, 9 share), Fox had 6.1 million (3.9, 7), ABC had 5.7 million (3.8, 7), NBC had 5.1 million (3.8, 7), the CW had 2 million (1.3, 2), My Network TV had 860,000 (0.6, 1) and ION Television had 640,000 (0.4, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with 3.7 million (1.9, 3), Telemundo had 1 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura had 480,000 (0.3, 1) and Azteca had 110,000 (0.1, 0).

ABC's "World News" won the evening-news ratings race, averaging 7.7 million viewers (5.4, 12). NBC's "Nightly News" had 7.4 million viewers (5.3, 12) and the "CBS Evening News" had 6 million (4.3, 9).

A ratings point represents 1,114,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 111.4 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of June 4-10, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "America's Got Talent," NBC, 13 million; "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 11.27 million; "So You Think You Can Dance" (Thursday), Fox, 11.07 million; "So You Think You Can Dance" (Wednesday), Fox, 10.35 million; "Deal or No Deal" (Tuesday), NBC, 10.11 million; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 10.04 million; "CSI: Miami," CBS, 9.49 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 9.46 million; "NCIS," CBS, 9.36 million; "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader," Fox, 9.32 million.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is a division of CBS Corp. Fox is a unit of News Corp. NBC is owned by General Electric Co. Telemundo is owned by General Electric. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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© 2007 The Associated Press