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Sopranos Final Episodes Premiere Down in Viewers

The Sopranos' final batch of episodes debuted to 7.7 million viewers Sunday night (April 8) on HBO, about 2 million fewer than the premiere its last batch drew. The 9 p.m. episode kicked off part two of the show's sixth and final season; the premiere episode of the first half of the season averaged 9.5 million viewers March 12, and Sunday-night episodes for that half-season averaged 8.6 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.

April 8's 10 p.m. premiere of Entourage, the second half of that show's third season, held on to about half of its Sopranos lead-in, averaging 3.8 million viewers. That was up from the premiere episode of the season three's first half, which averaged 2.7 million viewers following Deadwood in June. Premiere episodes of that half-season averaged 2.4 million.

HBO prefers to cite cumulative audiences for multiple plays of each episode of its originals and plans to rerun The Sopranos and Entourage seven times each week across its networks. The Sopranos' season six first half averaged 13.1 million viewers including all plays of each episode. HBO also drew about 1 million additional viewers to each episode of The Sopranos on video-on-demand last cycle.

The pay cable network wasn't the only one facing less than stellar ratings Sunday night. ABC's Desperate Housewives saw its smallest audience ever for an original episode, averaging 15.9 million viewers at 9 p.m. The show had been in reruns, except for a clip show, since March 4 and may have lost momentum because of that. Sunday was also Easter, which may have contributed to low viewing levels.