Three years ago, AMC was an obscure cable channel stuck in movie rerun hell. Fast-forward to September, 2009, and it's the home of Mad Men, one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television. But the show's emergence is about more than just the Emmys. It's about the money. So, mix yourself a Gibson martini (pickled onion, no olive) and take a gander at Mad Men by the numbers.
$2 million (all currency in U.S. dollars) The cost of making one episode When AMC took the plunge and made an original series, it knew it had to look as good or better than anything on HBO. The cable channel splurged $3 million on the pilot in order to turn heads with a set that accurately depicts a 1960s office milieu. It has since cut the per-episode cost to $2 million, but the amount of publicity the show has generated is worth 10 times that. People may not know what AMC is, but most Canadians would recognize a picture of Don Draper or Peggy Olsen.
37 The number of product or brand placements in the first episode of Season 3 A show about the ad industry that didn't include product placements would be like March of the Penguins without the penguins. Even AMC is at a loss to say how many placements have been featured so far ("literally hundreds"), but when the staff at Sterling Cooper spend their days talking about London Fog raincoats or referencing the bottle of Stoli in their office, rest assured this is no accident. Product placement revenue is not disclosed, but consider that since the arrival of Mad Men, AMC's ad-related revenue is estimated to have grown by $52 million, or exactly one-third.
$18 million Expected North american sales of mad Men Season 2 DVDs this year DVD and digital sales are the straw that stirs the vodka gimlet for AMC and distributor Lionsgate Entertainment. With no major network carrier for Mad Men in Canada, and only Rogers and Shaw carrying AMC, much of the audience is catching up on DVD. This year, Mad Men made the unusual move of going directly to iTunes, selling each episode for $2.49, or $3.49 in high definition. And a deal with cable carriers such as Rogers to offer Mad Men free through on-demand portals also provides incremental revenue to the show.
$22 million Commercial revenue generated by one season of Mad Men The cost of a 30-second spot on AMC during Mad Men is $65,000, and each episode runs 47 minutes, leaving AMC 26 spots to sell. An equivalent ad on a mainstream CBS drama commands $155,000. So, with production costs at about $26 million per season, AMC wanted more revenue. Heading into the third season, AMC told the show's writers to shave 2.5 minutes from each episode to free up more commercial time. A creative scuffle ensued, and the writers won. Mad Men isn't exactly operating at a loss, however, since these figures don't include the tens of millions generated by product placements and brand sponsorships by the likes of BMW.
1 The number of characters on Mad Men who don't smoke So far, Pete Campbell, Sterling Cooper's conniving young account manager, is the only regular character who never lights up. In fact, Lucky Strike cigarettes were the first product placement used on the show. "Advertising is based on one thing: happiness," Don Draper famously remarked during his pitch to the tobacco company. "Everyone else's tobacco is poisonous. But Lucky Strike's is 'Toasted.' " The rest is advertising history.