HBO's Offer Nielsen Can't Refuse

Family tensions were running high and so were the Nielsens during the fourth-season finale of The Sopranos.

Home Box Office's mobster dramedy shot up a 21.3 rating/29 share Dec. 8 within the premium channel's universe, according to Nielsen Media Research data. That translated into some 12.5 million viewers, which beat all of the broadcast networks in the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot.

The "Whitecaps" installment ranked as the second-highest in the show's history, behind the fourth-season opener Sept. 15.

That show, following a 17-month hiatus of fresh episodes, scored a 23.3 rating/31 share in HBO homes and counted some 13.4 million viewers, making it the most-watched program in the network's history.

For its fourth season, The Sopranos averaged 11 million viewers versus 9 million for its third season.

Bolstered by The Sopranos' lead-in, bordello documentary Cathouse scored a 13.1 rating/20 share in the channel's universe, the best for a genre entry on HBO in five years, according to a network spokesman.