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‘Band’ backs off in soph-sesh ratings

World War II drama still scoring high despite dropoff

NEW YORK — HBO’s “Band of Brothers” miniseries fell off in viewership in its second week by 26%, but the World War II drama still scored higher than the average Sunday-night ratings this year for the hit HBO series “Sex and the City” and “Six Feet Under.”

The network was expecting a falloff in the ratings in week two because the opening-week two-hour special on Sept. 9 set the bar impossibly high, chalking up a 17.9 rating, good for 6.2 million households and 10 million people. That made “Brothers,” exec produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the highest-rated longform program in HBO’s history.

Another likely reason for the second-week drop was HBO’s decision seven days ago to scrap all print and on-air advertising for “Band of Brothers” as a response to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Despite the diminished numbers for Sunday’s episode of “Brothers,” most networks, cable or broadcast, would kill for the 13.2 rating the one-hour edition ended up with, which translated into 4.6 million households and 7.3 million people.

‘Sex’ not as strong

HBO researchers pointed out that “Sex and the City” averaged a 12 rating for the Sunday premieres of the 12 original episodes earlier this year, and “Six Feet Under” averaged an 11 rating for its 13 Sunday primetime premieres.

Comparisons to HBO’s previous blockbuster miniseries, the April 1998 “From the Earth to the Moon,” also co-exec produced by Hanks, make “Brothers” look even better. “Moon” premiered with a stellar 12.8 rating but tumbled by 40% in its second week, to a 7.8 rating.

Meanwhile, the timeshifters among HBO subscribers were hopping mad this week: If they inserted a one-hour cassette into their VCRs, they lost the last five minutes of the Sept. 16 “Brothers” episode because it ran for 65 minutes.

An HBO spokesman said the runover is not a deliberate device to make it hard for viewers to click to another network following the conclusion of the “Brothers” episode. For artistic reasons, 65 minutes was the length the writer and director wanted the episode to be.

But, as a warning, the spokesman said the Oct. 7 episode has a running time of 68 minutes, the Oct. 14 edition 73 minutes and the Nov. 4 episode 63 minutes. The others are all 60 minutes or less.

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