Like fine Italian wine, The Sopranos
only gets better each year. HBO's smash mob drama grabbed a blistering 23.3 Nielsen rating among HBO subscribers for its Sept. 15 premiere. It's the pay net's highest rating ever for an original program.
beat out nearly every broadcast and cable offering that night. Translated to the U.S. TV universe, the show garnered a 7.4 rating and 7.9 million viewers. Only CBS's 60 Minutes ,
with a 7.9 rating and 10.6 million viewers, attracted a larger crowd, according to Nielsen Media Research.
HBO defines its universe as the 38 million HBO and Cinemax customers; Nielsen puts the mark at 34 million.
Now in its fourth season, The Sopranos
has steadily built a following over its run. The first-ever Sopranos
episode bowed to a 7.7 Nielsen rating in 1999. Season three kicked off with a stellar 20.4 rating.
The Sopranos helped out HBO's other original offerings that night. Curb Your Enthusiasm
recorded a respectable 11.0 rating, and Mind of the Married Man, back for a somewhat surprising second season, earned a 6.9 rating.
There is probably only one season left for The Sopranos
to top these debut marks. Series creator David Chase has said season five will be his last. The cast says, Chase walks, they will, too.