HBO tells bars, restaurants to quit showing 'The Sopranos'

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

NEW YORK -- Bars and restaurants that try to entice customers by showing Paulie Walnuts, Ralphie Cifaretto and the rest of "The Sopranos" gang on Sunday nights are hearing from another type of enforcer.

HBO lawyers are sending out letters telling them to turn the sets off, since it's illegal to show the network's signal in public places.

"I got whacked!" said Frankie Janisch, owner of "Frankie J's" restaurant in Chicago, who received a cease-and-desist letter from HBO four days after the Chicago Tribune wrote about his Sunday night promotion surrounding the hit mob drama.

He's no longer showing episodes of "The Sopranos" on his restaurant's televisions.

As a pay cable service, HBO is only supposed to be shown in private homes and hotels, said Jeff Cusson, a spokesman for the network.

"If you're paying $10 a month to get it into your residence and can go into a public establishment and watch it, it's obviously not as appealing," he said.

HBO has always been on the lookout for people who use their signals, particularly to show high-profile boxing matches. But with "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" big favorites, they've become the subject of promotions, too. The season-opening episode of "The Sopranos" in September drew the largest audience in the network's 30-year history.

While there's no actual law against showing HBO's signal publicly, Cusson said people who get HBO through their cable or satellite provider agree to follow those rules.

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