AMC Takes a Gamble Prolonging <I>Mad Men's</I> Season Finale

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- AMC's (AMCX)AMCX Mad Men aired its mid-season finale last week to what was considered a "soft" 1.9 million viewers on May 25, during the Memorial Day Weekend. However, that  number was in line with the ratings the Matthew Weiner-produced show has recorded during its seven-year run.

When the key Live+3 ratings (measuring new views within three days of airing) were in, that number nearly doubled to 3.6 million viewers by the end of the week.

So does that mean AMC's strategy of splitting seasons of its hit show is working? We won't know until Mad Men finishes for real next year and the ratings come in.

What is known is people don't watch TV the same way anymore.

The traditional TV viewing season followed the school year, airing new episodes from September to the May Sweeps, considered the big yearly payoff. The summer season was a wasteland of repeats and shows that had no chance of any traction.

Now you can watch new "reality" programming year-round. AMC's Breaking Bad aired primarily in the summer while Mad Men was generally aired in mid-spring and into early summer.

Mad Men's success was vital for AMC, legitimizing the network as a destination for quality original programming following years of airing primarily movies and maintaining relatively low advertising revenue. When AMC said it would air the final season of Breaking Bad over two years and then did the same for the final season of Mad Men, many wondered if it marked the beginning of a new trend in in the hunt for a more advertising dollars.

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