‘Sopranos’ Premiere Gangs Up on the Nielsens

The Nielsens are in and HBO proved to be the big boss Sunday night.

The third-season premiere of the hit series “The Sopranos” blew away the networks with 11.3 million viewers in HBO-subscribing homes, and broke some impressive records along the way. The two-episode debut attracted the largest viewing audience in the series’ history and brought in HBO’s highest ratings since “Forrest Gump” premiered in 1995.

In terms of HBO’s original programming, “The Sopranos” easily became the cable station’s highest rated premiere in seven years. Only Barbra Streisand’s 1994 concert special and Mike Tyson’s 1989 bout with Frank Bruno rank higher.

Despite the growing accolades for “The Sopranos,” however, executive producer Brad Grey tells Reuters he’s willing to pull the plug on the drama after the fourth season.

“If indeed the show creatively feels like it’s losing its momentum and ceases to grow, there absolutely won’t be a fifth season. That’s a bridge we’ll cross soon,” says Grey. “No one wants to continue this show after it wears out its welcome.”

“The Sopranos” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. For more information on the show, visit our exclusive “Sopranos” area.