11:26am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: 'Mad Men' Takes a Hit in Return, Fetches 2.3 Million Viewers
Not unlike the pace of its series, Mad Men has historically been a steady performer for AMC -- solid but never spiking in a similar fashion to Breaking Bad or heavyweight The Walking Dead.
But Sunday night saw the series' final season actually dip in its premiere. The first of the current seven-episode batch took in 2.3 million viewers. That's a 1.1 million drop from the comparable premiere last year and the series' least watched opener since the second season in 2008.
The most recent season premiere averaged 3.4 million viewers, more or less even with the prior. That episode, the two-hour March 2012 premiere that aired after a 17-month break, was the series biggest to date -- averaging 3.54 million viewers.
Among adults 18-49, Mad Men averaged 1.0 million viewers. To be sure, Mad Men has never been entirely about the ratings. AMC's first foray into the scripted arena, it became an instant critical and awards darling. Since The Walking Dead became the network's (and all of TV's) de facto hit, Mad Men has been very much about the prestige. Even that has waned in recent years, however, with Homeland ending the series' best drama Emmy streak in 2012. (AMC's Breaking Bad took the top honor in 2013.)
Mad Men had quite a bit of hefty competition as well. Though it aired an hour earlier, Game of Thrones on HBO was likely one of the night's biggest draws. And in addition to the typical Big Four fare, MTV had its annual movie awards running across multiple Viacom nets.