Home Box Office’s March 7 season-five premiere of The Sopranos was a major ratings hit, besting its own previous ratings record.
The hour-long season debut garnered a 23.8 rating, the highest mark ever for a Sopranos episode, beating out the 23.3 for the Sept. 15, 2002, season-four premiere episode.
The number is even more impressive considering that it only represents viewership from HBO’s primary feed. Nielsen Media Research two months ago began separating figures for pay channels from their multiplex offspring, as previous years' entries represented rolled-up numbers from all feeds.
HBO executives also said The Sopranos whacked all other basic and cable-network shows during its 9 p.m.-10 p.m. time slot among adults 18-49.