HBO's 'Sex' Had a Climactic Finish

Almost 11 million viewers tuned in to say goodbye to Carrie and the girls on Home Box Office's Sex and the City

The much-hyped 94th installment pulled in a series record 10.6 million viewers during its premiere on Feb. 22 from 9 p.m.-9:45 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research data, shattering the comedic skein's previous mark of 7.9 million viewers for the bow of its fifth season in September 2003.

Within the premium channel's universe, the Sex
climax pulled a 21.8 rating and a 28 share. The Sarah Jessica Parker-starrer averaged a 12.8 rating/17 share during its last eight-installment run that began in January.

Sex's goodbye performance marked HBO's biggest numbers since the fourth-season premiere of The Sopranos
on Sept. 15, 2002, which garnered 13.4 million viewers and a 23.3/31.

The Sex
sayonara was even more impressive considering the numbers represented viewership solely from HBO's primary feed. Starting this January, Nielsen began separating figures for pay channels from their multiplex offspring, as previous year's entries represented rolled-up numbers from all feeds.

The show's goodbye also stacked up well within the total TV world, beating all of the broadcasters among adults 18 to 34, women 18 to 34 and adults 18 to 49. However, it trailed ABC's Super Millionaire and NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent among total viewers within its time slot.

The recap shows leading into the Sex finale also performed very well for HBO. A Farewell to Sex and the City Part I from 8 p.m.-8:30 p.m. recorded a 13.7/18 share and 6.4 million viewers, while the subsequent second half-hour registered a 15.9/21 and 7.4 million watchers.

Sex also provided a halo effect for lead-out Curb Your Enthusiasm, which scored a 10.0/14 share and some 5.1 million viewers on Feb. 22, the second most in the Larry David show's history, behind only its 2002 season premiere on Sept. 15, 2002.

Following a pair of repeats last week — most recently on Saturday night —Sex will vanish from HBO's air until September, when it will begin encoring the series' final 20 episodes. In the interim, Sex
will turn up beginning in June on sister network TBS Superstation.

"It's not the end, it's the beginning," said Turner spokesman Sal Petruzzi, referring to TBS's plans to begin airing Sex's initial season.

Relative to ad sales, Petruzzi said: "There is strong interest among viewers, look at the ratings for and all the buzz around the finale, and in the marketplace as the show will be available to 50 million more homes. We're continuing to have positive, ongoing discussions with media buyers and expect to make some announcements soon."

For HBO, meanwhile, the fifth season of The Sopranos
and new Western series Deadwood
will take center stage when they bow on March 7 and March 21, respectively.