March 26, 2012 11:20am PT by Michael O'Connell
'Mad Men' Returns to Record Ratings With Season 5 Premiere
Months of buzz for the long-delayed return for Mad Men paid off in the numbers. Sunday's two-hour fifth-season opener brought record showings among viewers and key demo groups.
Mad Men drew 3.5 million viewers during the course of its extended broadcast. That's 600,000 more than the previous high of 2.9 million achieved during the season-four premiere, a 21 percent jump.
Among key demos, Mad Men pulled in 1.6 million in adults 18-49, marking 30 percent growth from the previous opener. In the core adults 25-54 demo, Mad Men grew 17 percent for 1.7 million viewers.
"Mad Men set the bar high, and we are incredibly proud that it continues to engage audiences looking for unexpected, unconventional and uncompromising television,” said AMC president Charlie Collier. "For each of the five Mad Men seasons, Matthew Weiner and his team have crafted a beautifully told story, and each season a larger audience has responded -- a rare accomplishment. We couldn’t be more proud of this program, the brilliant writers, cast and crew and the entire team on each side of the camera."
REVIEW: 'Mad Men' Season 5
Combining the 9 and 11 p.m. broadcasts, Mad Men scored a cumulative 4.4 million viewers for the night.
Despite four consecutive Emmys for best drama and no shortage of media interest, Mad Men appeared as something of an underperformer compared with other AMC series that have thrived during its long hiatus. The Walking Dead, which debuted just after the season 4 finale of Mad Men, recently topped another record, bringing in 9 million viewers for its season-two finale -- 6 million of which were in the coveted adults 18-49 set, giving it a 4.7 demo rating.
In the time since Mad Men was last on the air, even Breaking Bad eclipsed its adults 18-49 showing, earning 1.8 million in its 2011 season finale.