Fewer Viewers than Last Year for Sopranos Debut

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The start of the final run of The Sopranos didn’t kill with the Nielsens.

HBO’s April 8 debut of the installment, entitled “Soprano Family Movies,” pulled in 7.7 million viewers during its 9 p.m. premiere Easter evening, according to Nielsen Media Research data. That’s down 19% from the 9.5 million who tuned in for the first entry in season six March 12, 2006.

The first half of the sixth season -- a 12-episode premiere run -- averaged 8.6 million viewers for its Sunday-night premieres.

Executives at the premium channel said they were not disappointed by the initial number, preferring to see how the episode’s seven other runs on HBO and HBO2 tally over the course of this week. During the first half of season six, HBO executives said the series cumed 13.1 million viewers. In addition, more than 1 million viewers on average tuned in David Chase’s acclaimed mob series via HBO on Demand.

There are eight more original installments left of The Sopranos, starting with the upcoming April 15 episode, “Stage 5.”

Meanwhile, the Nielsen news for Vince, E, Turtle, Drama and Ari was much stronger. Following The Sopranos’ lead-in, the starter of the second half of the third season of Entourage notched 3.8 million viewers in its 10 p.m. premiere Sunday, up 41% from the 2.7 million who clicked in the beginning of its second season.

The Hollywood buddy series averaged 2.4 million viewers for its dozen-episode premiere run, a total that cumed to 5.1 million after counting its multiple runs, according to HBO officials.

Entourage will follow The Sopranos until the James Gandolfini-starrer finale June 3, when David Milch’s surfer series, John from Cincinnati, takes its bow down the pipe. The 12-episode fourth season of Entourage is scheduled to begin June 10.

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