HBO, ABC Win With Sopranos and MNF

The new television season officially begins next week, although it got an early start Sunday night with The Sopranos premiere, which scored big for HBO, earning an 11 share/7.4 household rating with 13.4 million viewers, the leading show on Sunday night and one of the top shows of the week.

The week's leader was Monday Night Football, which catapulted ABC to second in prime average, a place it has seldom been recently. It scored a 23 share/12.8 household with 19 million viewers. ABC's NFL Monday Showcase ranked second, giving ABC the top two shows for the week.

CBS beat ABC in prime average (11/6.6 to 10/6), thanks to its stable of hits that continue to rank high even in reruns. Two episodes of CSI, Everybody Loves Raymond and Becker were ranked in the top 10 and CBS also scored with 9/11, its documentary on the terrorist attacks that ran on the anniversary, and 60 Minutes. An ABC News special on 9/11 also ranked in the top 10, along with Dateline NBC.

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NBC (10/5.8) and Fox (8/4.4) trailed CBS and ABC in prime average. Fox didn't have a single show in the top 25 after winning the top two spots last week with American Idol. It is introducing four new shows this week, which should be helped by the promotion they received on Idol.

Football is the big story in virtually every category. It also won the top two cable spots for ESPN's games on Sunday and Thursday nights and it led the way in the sports category with two games on Fox and one on CBS. The top rating for ESPN was 7.8 household with 8.3 million households watching. Fox's top game scored a 27 share/13.2 household with 14 million households tuned in.

Other cable leaders were Chevy Monte Carlo (TNT), ESPN's Sports Center and Trading Spaces (TLC). The other sports winner was US Open tennis (CBS).

In other TV news, ABC will continue to run USA Network's Monk this fall. It plans a two month run beginning Sept. 26. ABC ran four episodes this summer, which scored well against American Idol, averaging 8.3 million viewers.

UPN goes into the new fall season with a weaker distribution system, migrating to weaker UHF outlets in two top markets and losing primary affiliates in some markets that switched to the WB or CBS. Meanwhile, Fox's status improved, moving from UHF to VHF in Minneapolis and Portland, OR.

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