Yes, ‘Mad Men’ Is One of the Best Shows on TV. But With Such Small Viewership, and Such Paltry Ad Sales, How Does It Stay on the Air?

Aug 2, 2010  •  Post A Comment

Emmy Award winning "Mad Men" is one of the most acclaimed shows on TV.

But it’s watched by relatively few people, and it’s ad sales are paltry.

So how does it stay on the air?

That’s the question Brian Steinberg asked in a piece he writes for Advertising Age.

As Steinberg notes in his article, "The average viewership for "Mad Men" — 925,000 for first-run episodes in 2007, 1.51 million in 2008 and 1.81 million in 2009, according to Nielsen — would get it canceled if it aired on any broadcast network in prime time."

Furthermore, he observes, that tThe program’s airings drew only $1.98 million in advertising revenue in 2009, which Steinberg calls a "paltry" amount compared with the more than $200,000 per 30-second ad commanded by Fox’s "24."

Ultimately, the article says a show like "Mad Men" works in cable because such programs, "help cable push for the greater subscription and programming fees that keep its business stable. Under this emerging formula, TV networks and show producers must make do with smaller audiences and then work more furiously to secure every dollar that comes from merchandising, digital viewing, DVD purchases and international sale."

To read the entire Advertising Age story, please click here.


  1. Last night I noticed that some of MAD MEN’s ad time was taken up with cable-style infomercial type products, which seemed jarringly low-end on this supposed hot show.
    They took a page from ABC’S DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES in running special ads that mimic the style of the show, so the audience is tricked into feeling like the show has come back from the commercial early. That seems to be a big ad shoot for less than two million viewers.

  2. I noticed that as well. Makes me wish I had a product so that I could create a “back in the day” advert just for MM. I’m sure VW and P&G presented ideas on Monday.

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