Don Draper’s split personality is about to manifest itself in the final season of Mad Men, as AMC will cleave the 14-episode order in two.
As it has done with The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, AMC will divide the show’s last season in two, bowing the first half in spring 2014 and wrapping things up a year later. Not only will that give Mad Men creator and writer Matt Weiner sufficient time to concoct a worthy end to the series, but it will also transform the final seven installments into a capital-e Event.
Delayed gratification can only serve to inflate Mad Men’s market value. While two strands of The Walking Dead’s third season were spaced a mere two months apart, the hiatus allowed AMC’s ad sales team to hike up the unit cost in scatter. While marketers who bought time on TWD in the upfront paid around $245,000 for each 30-second spot, by the end of the season the rate had jumped as high as $400,000 a pop.
Viewer demand and scarcity have combined to pump up the asking price for time in the remaining episodes of Breaking Bad. According to a media buyer who bought time in the Sept. 29 finale, the rate for latecomers flirted with the $350,000 mark.
AMC’s official take is that a break in the action will only serve to pump up the ratings. “This approach has worked well for many programs across multiple networks, and, most recently for us with Breaking Bad, which attracted nearly double the number of viewers to its second-half premiere than had watched any previous episode,” said AMC president Charlie Collier. “We are determined to bring Mad Men a similar showcase.”
Indeed, the midseason premiere of Vince Gilligan’s dark masterpiece drew a record 5.92 million viewers and a 2.9 in the 18-49 demo. And as the tension mounts, the ratings continue to build. Sunday night’s three-Xanax episode drew a record 6.37 million viewers and a 3.2 in the demo.
For Weiner, the scheduling is in service to the story. “We plan to take advantage of this chance to have a more elaborate story told in two parts, which can resonate a little bit longer in the minds of our audience,” Weiner said, by way of announcing the scheme. “The writers, cast and other artists welcome this unique manner of ending this unique experience.”
While it’s canonical amongst ad industry types, Mad Men has never been a reach vehicle. Season 6 bowed in April to 3.37 million viewers and a 1.1 in the dollar demo, and by the time the finale rolled around, the deliveries had dropped to 2.69 million viewers and a 0.9 rating.
The most-watched episode? After a 17-month layoff, the Season 5 premiere seduced a series-high 3.54 million viewers and a 1.2 rating. Zou Bisou Bisou.