HBO Opener Vies with ABC
Mar 20, 2006
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The most-watched cable premiere year to date was the long-awaited sixth-season debut March 12 of HBO’s “The Sopranos,” followed by the premiere of its freshman drama “Big Love.” The expectations game played against the mob drama, with critics slamming the premiere for failing to hurt viewership of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and for being down about 25 percent from season five’s premiere in 2004.
It’s a testament to the “Sopranos” near-mythic power that critics even expected a series available in only 28 million homes to take down a top-rated broadcast hit and viewed drawing 9.5 million total viewers as disappointing.
The premiere of “Big Love,” however, was decidedly modest, considering its lead-in, publicity push and contemporary setting. The premiere episode’s first telecast was seen by 4.6 million viewers-slightly less than “Deadwood,” slightly more than “Rome.”
FX’s heavy marketing campaign (and a little help from Oprah Winfrey) paid off for its “trading races” reality series “Black. White.” The March 8 premiere was seen by nearly 4 million viewers (2.8 million among viewers 18 to 49)-less than FX’s hit drama “The Shield” but more than double the premiere of FX’s previous reality effort, “30 Days” (1.7 million).
Lifetime’s “Cheerleader Nation” was heavily marketed but didn’t fare so well out of the gate. The mother-daughter reality series was seen by 1.6 million viewers, about on par with the network’s prime-time average.