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‘Sopranos’ medals

Show tops Olympics coverage on Canuck TV

TORONTO — The Canuck web CTV, the only national network world-wide with the moxie to show “The Sopranos” in primetime, has won the ratings race against the CBC’s Olympics coverage in its first three episodes.

Starting Sunday, CTV began showing the entire first season over 13 nights. “It was counter-programming for the Olympics,” said Trina McQueen, exec VP for CTV, noting that the results have been “extremely successful” in rating terms in the program’s 10-11 p.m. timeslot –beating even the expectations of CTV brass.

“The Sopranos” bested the Olympics on Sunday night by 26%, Monday by 48% and Tuesday by 78%, with 10.2%, 9.7% and 9.1% of viewers 18-49 nationwide tuned in, respectively, according to Nielsen Media Research.

At CTV, there was “a certain amount of wondering” about how the drama’s high sex-and-violence quotient would be received, she conceded, which the network dealt with by posting lots of discretionary notices. Network brass did consider editing the program down for length — not content — she noted, but “we just couldn’t do it in a way that really made sense.” So “The Sopranos” is running at length, pushing back the 11 p.m. news. The network has had about 100 complaints, fewer than expected, she said, some of which came from irate viewers who, not realizing that the show would run past the hour, didn’t set their VCRs properly.

Also part of CTV’s new season, the web’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire — Canadian Edition” pulled in record-breaking home-grown numbers for the network, with a national average minute audience on Sept. 14 of 4.17 million. The show outdrew the American version by about a third, said McQueen, and set a new record for Canadian entertainment fare on CTV.

Programming the Canuck “Millionaire” and “The Sopranos” was part of a September strategy, she said. “We knew the Olympics were coming, and we wanted to start to launch the season with some impressive programs.”

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