'Sopranos' Ratings Down From Last Season

There's been a lot of debate among fans of "The Sopranos" regarding the quality of this season's first three episodes, but as far as the numbers go, there is no argument -- ratings are way down from last season.

The first three episodes of this season have averaged 9.2 million viewers on HBO, compared with nearly 11 million viewers who tuned into the first three episodes of Season 5 (in March '04), according to Nielsen.

That's a 14 percent dropoff.

More troubling is the fact that the numbers have "trended downward," in industry-speak, since the March 12 season opener, which averaged 9.5 million viewers, followed by the March 19 and 26 episodes (9.2 million and 9 million, respectively).

And, among the coveted 18-49 demographic, ratings for the first three episodes of this season are down 23 percent from the first episodes in '04.