Despite a month-long publicity drive that saw Don Draper et al on the front page of every magazine and newspaper, Mad Men debuted to rather disappointing viewing figures last Tuesday. The cast of the 1960s advertising drama need no excuse for a spot of day-time drinking, but an average audience of 70,000 for one of the channel’s most prestigious shows may have left many Sky Atlantic execs joining them in reaching for the scotch.
The advertising agency drama peaked at just under 100,000 viewers for the double-bill premiere ‘A Night To Remember’, which is a staggeringly small number of people when you consider that 10 million households shell out for Sky in one form or another, indeed we had to double check we’d read that figure correctly. Sky have argued that such ratings represent a 300% increase on the normal audience in that time-spot, but the reality is that Mad Men is one of the new channel’s cornerstones and they will have been hoping for better. Early figures for Tuesday’s third episode, in which Betty returned (presumably from the pie shop), aren’t much better..
Some may argue that fans who enjoyed the show on BBC4, will simply find other ways of accessing the content rather than paying Murdoch for the pleasure, but if streaming shenanigans are the root of the problem, then it seems to be a factor affecting the AMC-based drama more than any of Sky Atlantic’s other offerings.
Game of Thrones, enjoyed a more modest advertising campaign (which admittedly, isn’t saying much) but attracted five times as many viewers on Monday for the launch of its second series. Over half a million people tuned in to watch the fantasy drama based on the novels of George RR Martin and this figure is in line with Sky Atlantic’s other big beast, Boardwalk Empire, which debuted in 2011 with nearly 450,000 viewers. Game of Thrones has been the most successful of the channel’s shows in its first year (with The Borgias beating the prohibition caper to second) but at this rate, Mad Men may struggle to oust Blue Bloods and Mildred Pierce, which came fourth and fifth respectively. The premiere of Mad Men season 5 also broke records in the States when it aired a few days before the British launch, so why has the show performed so badly in the UK? Read more