By Amy Ryan
Updated August 31, 2005 at 06:21 PM EDT

”Anything can happen,” Diddy said at the MTV Video Music Awards, though a 22 percent audience drop-off from last year is probably not what he had in mind. Just 8 million people watched the VMAs on Sunday, down from 10.3 million last year. To be fair, Katrina stole a lot of MTV’s thunder; some 7.4 million viewers were watching the three cable news networks’ hurricane coverage. Plus, that 8 million was still big enough to make the VMAs the most-watched non-sports program of the summer on basic cable.

One show that might have siphoned some viewers away from MTV was HBO’s Rome premiere. It drew 3.8 million, marking HBO’s best Nielsen numbers in more than a year. But will they come back next week? Rome‘s audience wasn’t built in a day.

Meanwhile, Monday’s premiere of Prison Break drew 10.5 million viewers, the best summertime Monday numbers for Fox since 1998. It’ll be interesting to see how it does once other networks’ 9 p.m. Monday shows return to airing new episodes, or if the show is just keeping the seat warm until 24 comes back in January.

addCredit(“Diddy: Jim Cooper/AP”)

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