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Netflix takes credit for 'Mad Men' audience boost of 1 million

May 23, 2012|By Joe Flint
  • "Mad Men" has enjoyed a ratings boost from Netflix, a top executive there said.
"Mad Men" has enjoyed a ratings boost from Netflix, a top executive… (Frank Ockenfels / AMC )

BOSTON -- The ratings gains that AMC's drama "Mad Men" is enjoying in its fifth season are directly tied to the popularity of the show on Netflix, a top executive at that company said.

"We brought maybe a million viewers to AMC," Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told attendees of the annual National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. convention here. The season premiere of "Mad Men" drew 3.5 million viewers, which was a new record for the show. Last season, "Mad Men" averaged 2.3 million viewers.

Netflix has found great success lately as a home for repeats of serialized dramas such as "Mad Men" as many viewers have taken to binging on such shows and watching multiple episodes in one sitting.

However, the challenge for TV networks is knowing which shows may resonate with viewers and find traction on Netflix down the road even if their initial ratings are soft. A network has to be confident to keep a low-rated show around hoping a Netflix-type service will bring in new viewers that will then eventually go to the primary source for more episodes.

Netflix is also making a big push into original programming. The company is producing a political drama, starring Kevin Spacey, called "House of Cards" -- a follow-up to its first foray into original content, the Steven Van Zandt gangster drama "Lillyhammer." 

Sarandos said one of the motivations behind Netflix's move into making its own content was because pay-TV channels HBO, Starz and Showtime are not willing to sell them repeats of their shows like"Homeland,""Game of Thrones" or"Boss."

Unlike the commercial broadcast and cable channels, HBO, Showtime and Starz -- all of which require consumers to subscribe separately to them -- view Netflix as more of a direct competitor.

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