I've been itching to see how Mad Men performed on Sky Atlantic, ever since the show was poached from BBC4 as one of SkyA's big-name acquisitions. Unsurprisingly, last night's double-bill fifth season premiere only attracted an average of 72,000 viewers.
Most damningly, there was actually a 50% drop in viewership between episodes, going from 98,000 to 45,000. Does this suggest that half the audience were newcomers, who switched off? If so, will SkyA be looking at 50,000 regular viewers in the weeks to come? I know the channel doesn't exist strictly for ratings, more the prestige to attract discerning subscribers who love world-class drama, but that can't really be good news.
As comparison, BBC4's fourth season premiere of Mad Men pulled in 360,000 viewers (and the show was considered low-rated even with those numbers).
It's also interesting to predict that around 300,000 fans of Mad Men just weren't able to see the show's return on SkyA (i.e. they don't have a Sky subscription, which Atlantic's still exclusive to). Will this encourage more piracy online? Or will DVD/Blu-ray sales instead receive a healthy boost from UK stores later this year?
AMC would undoubtedly prefer the latter if Sky are willing to pay them £500,000 per episode of a show that attracts less than 95,000 of their subscribers, ontop of a cut from lucrative disc sales (where a Mad Men box-set can cost British consumers £25-35).
Across the pond, Mad Men lured 3.5m viewers on AMC (a 21% increase on season 4's premiere), making it the show's highest-rated episode ever.