The (Media) World's Gone Mad

Rash Report: 'Mad Men,' Tiger and Michael Vick (Oh, My!)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- While Nielsen ratings reports are a whole lot quicker than in Don Draper's time, Madison Avenue still has to wait a day for data to officially gauge how "Mad Men" did in its season-three premiere. But preliminary data show that the show -- which has been more of a cultural than a commercial hit in its first two seasons -- increased its total viewers by a third and was up as much as 71% in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic. Whether that will be enough to win the overall ratings race remains to be seen. But if "Mad Men" isn't a viewing victor, it at least leads all TV in terms of talk value.

'Mad Men' Season 3
'Mad Men' Season 3 Credit: AMC/Carin Baer
Season three's theme of seismic shifts -- "The World's Gone Mad" -- has seemed to resonate in the media world as well. First is the AMC hit itself, which received more media hype than the opening of most big-picture premieres. This represents another big miss by AMC's broadcast competitors, which offer nothing remotely like "Mad Men."

The original scripted series to choose from last night consisted of two episodes of NBC's "Merlin," which had only a .8/3 and .9/3 rating and share in the 18-to-49 demographic (which, along with a 1.0/3 for an "SNL Presidential Bash" rerun, led NBC to finish fourth with a .9/3), as well as ABC's "Defying Gravity," which again was grounded with a .8/2.

ABC did have two new episodes of reality shows "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (1.5/5) and "Shark Tank" (1.8/5), which, when combined with a reality repeat ("America's Funniest Home Videos," 1.4/5), resulted in a third-place 1.4/4.

CBS added two shows in network TV's summer default genre: "Big Brother" (2.3/7) and "There Goes the Neighborhood" (1.2/5). Those helped CBS finish first, with an overall 2.0/6. But the network was driven by two examples of the sports world gone mad.

First was the first upset in a major golf tournament led by Tiger Woods, as Y.E. Yang became the first South Korean to win one of golf's grand-slam events. Final numbers from the final round of the PGA Championship, like those for "Mad Men," won't be available until tomorrow, but CBS reported that the event was up 150% in households from last year and was the highest-rated since 2002.

The tournament ran over until about 7:19 p.m, and the 7-to-7:30 time slot scored a 2.8/10 (the most precise measurement available until tomorrow). The 7:30-to-8:30 hour included the PGA's lead-out, "60 Minutes" (2.7/9), which also showed some sports madness, as it featured an interview with Michael Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback who has become a Philadelphia Eagle following a prison sentence for dogfighting.

But if sports won the day for CBS, "Mad Men" won the summer for all of TV, at least in terms of creating culture that really seems to matter. This has only contributed to the season of discontent the networks are feeling, especially after last week's big news that several media conglomerates, at least two agency holding companies and three marketers are considering combining efforts to create competition to Nielsen to more effectively track consumer media behavior.

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See how all the shows did in the ratings.
It remains to be seen how effective the effort will be, as several attempts to topple Nielsen's media-measurement monopoly have fallen flat. But competition will be good for media measurement. It would also be good for programming. A schedule full of "Mad Mens" may be impossible, but at least a few scripted series with the relevance and resonance of "Mad Men" would make viewers -- and, thus, media, marketing and advertising companies -- happy.

WHAT TO WATCH: Monday: Having let loose Lucy and other '50s TV icons in favor of '90s sitcoms long ago, Nick at Nite continues its evolution with the premiere of "Glenn Martin, DDS," a stop-action comedy.
Tuesday: Few events will electrify like Usain Bolt's record-setting run on Sunday, but Olympics fans should like Versus' coverage of the World Track and Field Championships from Berlin.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
ESPN's "Monday Night Football" kickoff to score highest against lackluster summer fare on the broadcast networks.

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.

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