Did Tony help whack the Tonys?

Viewership of Sunday's 2007 Tony Awards telecast on CBS was 6.24 million, down 17 percent from last year, according to preliminary figures released Monday by the network, with a 4.2 rating and 7 share of the audience.

If that holds up when the final numbers are announced Tuesday, it will be the least-watched Tonys show ever. But then, between 9 p.m.-10 p.m. EDT Sunday, the Tonys were up against the final episode of "The Sopranos" on HBO.

"We always knew we had a particular challenge," said Howard Sherman, executive director of the American Theatre Wing, which co-produces the Tonys. "We do know that while we were down from prior years, we also know that CBS overall still did very strongly for the night, relative to the other networks.

"It is not every Sunday night in June that one of most acclaimed series in television history comes to an end," Sherman added. "We applaud the achievements of `The Sopranos' just as we applaud the achievements of the people working on Broadway every year."

Last year, the ratings for the Tony Awards show improved a bit over the 2005 telecast, reaching 7.71 million viewers for a 5.2 rating and 9 share of the audience.