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"Idol" Rubbing Out "Sopranos" On A&E

After rubbing out the competition in its first week, "The Sopranos" on A& E is up against Fox's "American Idol." A&E's Jan. 24 two-episode installment of the HBO's series pulled a 1.9 household rating and 2.1 million viewers, down from the 3.9 (4.3 million viewers) it drew for the Jan. 10 premiere, but even with last week.

Robert DeBitetto, A&E executive vice president and general manager, says the net anticipated a dropoff. "It's stabilized, which is a great sign," DeBitetto says. "We knew we'd be up against a phenomenon [in "American Idol"], but the show is where it is for very good strategic reasons that have a lot to do with maximizing revenue potential."

Of course, A&E will soon face even more competition starting Feb. 7 when ABC's "Lost" comes back on air. "It's very early, and we're just three weeks into a four-plus-year relationship, but we are pleased with its performance," he adds, noting it takes time to establish the "Sopranos" audience." But he says once the audiences gets it's footing once it's out of direct competition with the ABC powerhouses.



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