So why exactly is “Mad Men” up so much in the ratings this year? If you listen to the folks over at Netflix, they claim to have quite a bit to do with it.
At the recent National Cable & Telecommunications Association conference, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos reportedly made the bold claim that their service brought in a whopping one million viewers to AMC — which is something that has at least been felt in the higher ratings for season 5. (“Mad Men” is currently averaging 3.5 million viewers an episode compared to the 2.3 million for season 4.)
Is he right? Ultimately, it’s rather hard to quantify something like this, since you cannot survey every Netflix customer and ask whether or not they are watching a show like “Mad Men” for the first time via their service, or if they are just reliving some great moments of the past. The increased numbers for the season (and the show’s popularity on the service) each do show something more, though, than just the strength of an individual company to boost viewership — they prove the value in good storytelling.
If you look at the broadcast TV model, it typically works in one way — a show picks up some steam for the first season or two, peaks, and then starts to decline once you hit the point in season 4 or 5 where it starts to become culturally “uncool” to watch something that was in the zeitgeist a few years prior. Just look at “The Office,” and how people groan at its mere mention despite how incredibly hip of a show it was back in season 3.
What “Mad Men” has been able to effectively due is create buzz television that people do pay to watch — the Netflix success isn’t possible without a great show. While a long hiatus for most shows can destroy their popularity, the lengthy wait between seasons 4 and 5 here simply allowed more people to become excited about what was coming up over time. “Mad Men” is the example of why many networks (in particular on cable) give low-rated shows additional seasons early on in their run while some networks do not — there is more confidence in a product building over time.
Do you think Netflix is responsible for the higher “Mad Men” ratings, or do you simply attribute it more to the long hiatus, word of mouth, or people catching up on the show via a different medium?