Mad Men

'Mad Men' Premiere Gets Show's Biggest Audience Yet

Tops Season-Four Debut by 21% -- Still No Match for Broadcast

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Credit: AMC

The fifth-season premiere of AMC's "Mad Men" drew 3.5 million viewers, more than any previous episode and 20% more than last season's debut.

But that 's still a smaller audience than many shows get on broadcast TV or even some big cable networks. By comparison, last night's episode of "The Good Wife" on CBS had 9.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The finale of AMC's own "The Walking Dead" earlier this month attracted an audience of 9 million.

Season four's first episode of "Mad Men" drew 2.9 million viewers. That season averaged 2.3 million and got 2.4 million for its finale.

But AMC will be happy with a new high-water mark for the series that put it on the map for many.

The audience grew partly because earlier seasons are available online through Netflix, wrote Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Benjamin Mogil in a report today. Viewers caught up on past episodes or were introduced to the program, increasing demand for last night's broadcast, he said.

The new season was delayed a year because of contract talks between Matthew Weiner, the show's creator, and producer Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. After an agreement was reached in March, Lionsgate in April signed a pact with Netflix to make past seasons available online.

"The ratings strength is certainly a positive for AMC," Mr. Mogil wrote. Netflix availability "continues to support new-airing ratings ," he wrote.

AMC also has agreements with Netflix for past seasons of the shows "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad."

~ Bloomberg News ~

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