Tuned In

Maybe AMC Can Get a $10 Million Refund

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Commenter CMR writes:

Mr. Poniewozik, I know this is a political blog, but maybe you can squeeze in a post about MAD MEN’s ratings plunge

Happy to oblige! There are several schools of thought on this: (1) Low-information voters really don’t tune in until after Labor Day; (2) given the polarized, partisan electorate of…

Oh, I’m sorry! You mean TV ratings! Indeed, its second time out last Sunday, Mad Men‘s ratings dropped nearly 40% from its debut of nearly 2 million viewers. That’s still several hundred thousand more than watched the series last season, but not nearly the same return-on-investment from that massive $25 million ad campaign.

You could rationalize different explanations for this one too: that fans were primed to watch the season debut live and immediately but were willing to watch episode 2 in repeats or watch it on iTunes, where it’s presently the #2 download. (Likewise, big cable shows like The Sopranos tended to post their highest ratings for premieres and finales and tail off in the middle.)

But I suspect mainly there were new viewers who tuned in attracted by the hype, expected fireworks, found a deliberate character study in which most of the action involves talking, smoking and drinking—and checked out.

Last week’s Shark Week, on the other hand, drew 29.1 million viewers, yet another all-time record for the week. Because when Discovery promises you sharks, you gets sharks.