AMC may have been hoping that the so-called “Netflix Effect” would boost the ratings for the Season 7 premiere of Mad Men, but in a highly competitive Sunday 10 p.m. slot, Matt Weiner’s period piece put up its worst opening numbers since 2008.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the first installment of the bifurcated final season of Mad Men delivered 2.27 million viewers and a 0.8 in the 18-49 demo, marking a decline of 33 percent and 27 percent, respectively, versus last season’s two-hour opener.
Not since Season 2, when Mad Men drew 2.06 million viewers, has the moody drama debuted to a smaller audience. (That episode also delivered a 0.8 in the dollar demo.)
While never a ratings juggernaut—last season averaged just 2.42 million viewers and a 0.8 in the dollar demo—the year-over-year decline was unexpected. That said, AMC has always stressed Mad Men’s status as the most upscale drama on TV. (Nearly half of the show’s viewers reside in a household boasting an annual salary of $100,000 and up.)
Last night’s episode (“Time Zones”) also drew a 1.3 in the adults 25-54 demo.
Consensus among media buyers pegs the average unit cost for a 30-second spot in Mad Men to be around $65,000.
AMC president Charlie Collier did not choose to dwell on the deliveries, focusing instead on the significance of the beginning of the end of the show that catapulted the network out of the boonies.
“Sharing a Sunday night premiere episode of Mad Men on AMC is a uniquely satisfying experience as a fan, and something we never take for granted as a network,” Collier said. “Congratulations and thank you to Matthew Weiner and his remarkable team, both on-air and off, for, once again, treating us all to the rarest of entertainment air. We happily welcome back Mad Men.”
Designed to set the chess pieces in place ahead of their final moves, last night’s opener was fairly uneventful. No one had his foot mangled by a drunk secretary on a riding mower, nor did a despondent Englishman hang himself in his office. Even Icky Pete went unpunched.
The highlights (spoilers? sort of?): Roger Sterling’s reinvention as a crabby Free Love acolyte, “Stan, do you want any coffee!?!,” Kenny Cosgrove’s rage/Arrow Shirt Man eyepatch, Joan Harris’ brinksmanship with that punk kid from Cougar Town, and Peggy’s passive-aggressive plunger thrusting. Zero screen time for Betty Francis and Creepy Baby Gene. Oh, and Don could’ve totally banged Julia Salinger if he weren’t so busy moping back and forth to his fake job.
Lowlights: No Sally Draper. Too much crying. And OMFG: They really are going to pull a Sharon Tate on Megan, aren’t they? Doesn’t her bungalow more or less scream “Benedict Canyon”?
Earlier in the night, the second installment of the Revolutionary War spy drama, Turn, fell 12 percent to 1.87 million viewers but a rose one-tenth of a ratings point to a 0.6 in the 18-49 demo.
Turn had the ill fortune of going head-to-head with HBO’s resident giant killer, Game of Thrones. While demo data for George R. R. Martin’s pitch-black epic were not available at press time, Sunday night’s game-changer scared up 6.31 million viewers, making it the show’s second most-watched episode since last week’s blockbuster.
UPDATE: Having notched a 3.4 in the demo, Game of Thrones was once again the highest-rated program on TV. The season’s second episode retained 94 percent of the adults 18-49 audience that tuned in a week ago.