'Mad Men" Gives Great Show, Iffy Returns
It might be AMC's hit, and it unquestionably is, but that doesn't make it an actual hit with everybody - even if it is the reigning Emmy-winning "Best Drama on Television." Ask Tina Fey about that the next time you do a guest spot for her, Jon.
The third-season's premiere episode delivered a 0.67 A18-49 live rating, well more than twice AMC's season average of 0.3 for the demo. It picked up another three tenths of a point when you factor in Same-Day viewing (a 0.97 L+SD A18-49 rating). And adults 18-49 were the lowest-rated for any of the adult demos for the premiere.
No other AMC show even drives by the 1.0 rating neighborhood, let alone delivers there. Yet the "Mad Men" premiere episode delivered over a 1.0 L+SD rating for every adult demo we analyzed. The live household rating was a 1.4 - and 1.7 for Same Day.
The episode delivered 2.8 million total viewers. All of these results are series highs.
This show is clearly an AMC hit, fully separated from the rest of the network. Take a bow, AMC, for creating a signature hit when clearly, that's the growing trend in the top-tier cable networks.
A sizable one.
But a premiere episode does not a season make. Last season's premiere did a tick better in 18-49 (0.68) -- then lost half of that for episode two.
Last season's second episode delivered over 700,000 fewer total viewers than the season premiere. The season one drop-off was more severe, losing close to a million fewer viewers than the series debut. Chances are, season three's second-episode drop-off will be lower than previous seasons; it's finding its audience.
So as a "signature" series, "Mad Men" now has to leverage all that media buzz into audience deliveries. The 1.7 same-day rating in households that the premiere delivered is in TNT's "The Closer" territory -- generally regarded as the most successful original cable series around today. And it's consistently higher than an average episode of that other cable program that you may have heard about" "Jon and Kate and Their Forgotten Eight."
So having an exclusive sponsorship of the season premiere of a "high buzz" show -- as one advertiser did for both the second and third season of "Mad Men" -- looks like a smart move. Enjoy the party and leave early, before the charades come out.
While we as an advertising industry have something echoing a complicit pride in this drama -- almost like an uncle watching his nephew pitch a great game for his Little-League team, but still losing due to lack of runs -- we long for this show to succeed. The viewers still aren't making it a runaway hit, although all the buzz, all the awards, all the magazine covers, and all the style points would have you think otherwise. Unless, of course, you had ready access to Nielsen data.
And for what it is, it will be a success -- delivering well-pitched games seen by a few ardent supporters, but ultimately, the team just isn't selling enough seats to fill the stadium. That doesn't take anything away from the game itself -- even when there aren't that many people watching, somebody still wins.