AMC's 'Mad Men' Ratings Sell

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From AMC’s standpoint, Mad Men jumped out to a great start on the ratings front for its Aug. 16 season three premiere.

Last year’s Emmy-winning series for best drama and arguably this year’s favorite in the category (Mad Men is actually nominated for a whopping 16 Emmys) drew a series record 2.8 million viewers in its third season debut – a 34% gain over the season two kickoff, according to Rainbow Media-owned network.

Very few cable shows today can hold a candle to Mad Men from a creative and visionary standpoint. But from a ratings standpoint, the network is still trying to distinguish itself.

Given all the critical acclaim, reviews and press stories leading up to the launch, the show barely beat out the latest not so acclaimed reality series from the B-level celebrity Kardashian clan. E! Entertainment’s debut of Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami drew 2.7 million viewers going head to head with Mad Men.

 In fact, nearly 140 shows drew bigger audiences during the week of Aug. 10-16, including more than 20 episodes of Nickelodeon’s kids-targeted SpongeBob Squarepants. The week’s number one show, an Aug. 10 episode of The Closer, drew 6.9 million viewers, nearly 3 million viewers more than three airings of the Mad Men episode combined during its premiere night.

Even HBO’s vampire drama True Blood is drew more viewers than Mad Men on Sunday despite the pay service being available to nearly one-third less households than AMC.

That’s not to belittle AMC and Mad Men’s audience accomplishments — the fact that a network not known for scripted fare can successfully bring to viewers a unique, innovative and award-winning show like the 1960s’ advertising-themed Mad Men and stick with it while it builds an audience is a testament to the network’s fortitude and business acumen.

But it does show that AMC has to continue to work hard to get the word out to a good portion of America still missing one of the best shows on television.