Don Draper may have spent the last 17 months brooding handsomely in a state of whiskey-fortified suspended animation, but the long layover doesn’t seem to have scared off viewers.
Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, the Season 5 premiere of Mad Men was the most-watched episode in the series’ history, averaging 3.54 million total viewers from 9 p.m. to 11:08 p.m. EDT.
Deliveries for the two-hour season opener were up 21 percent from the most recent high-water mark of 2.92 million, set during the July 10, 2010, Season 4 premiere.
AMC’s much anticipated event also put up relatively big numbers in the demos, averaging 1.58 million adults 18-49—up 30 percent versus the previous season opener—and 1.65 million adults 25-54 (up 17 percent).
While last night’s installment centered around the surprise party Megan (Jessica Paré) threw for Don’s 40th birthday—it’s safe to say that a few million viewers woke up Monday morning with the strains of “Zou Bisou Bisou” resonating inside their skulls—the ratings weren’t much of a shocker. Along with the tide of press generated in the lead up to Mad Men’s return, social media data suggest that the show was the focus of the national conversation.
According to Bluefin Labs, Mad Men last night was the subject of some 106,000 social media comments, generating more than twice the buzz of any other drama this year. NBC’s Smash, which bowed Feb. 6, received 56,000 comments.
Of course, there isn’t necessarily a direct correlation between buzz metrics and linear deliveries. While Mad Men excited twice the chatter, the Smash premiere put up much stronger ratings, averaging 11.4 million total viewers and a 3.8 rating in the 18-49 demo.
Mad Men ranks as AMC’s No. 2 original series, trailing mega hit The Walking Dead. The March 18 season finale of the zombie apocalypse drama averaged a record 8.99 million viewers and a 4.7 rating in the dollar demo.
AMC’s other must-see series, Breaking Bad, is apparently an acquired taste. The explosive Season 4 finale averaged 1.9 million viewers and a 1.0 in the demo on Oct. 9.
While many observers noted that Mad Men’s deliveries would earn it a quick hook on a broadcast network, that argument conveniently overlooks the fact that, well, it’s not a network series. Be that as it may, the show commands a broadcast CPM of around $36—nearly three times what most other cable channels are writing for their original dramas.
A 30-second spot in Mad Men is still a heck of a bargain. Insiders estimate that the average client can align itself with the show for around $45,000 a pop.