More good news from BSkyB: exclusive deal for new Mad Men series is costing them a packet!

According to the Daily Mail it is anyway: BSkyB is paying £250,000 per episode for series five of Mad Men but audiences have slumped to 47,000 for the third episode (in stark contrast to the 355,000 it garnered on BBC digital channel BBC4 for the last series), costing Sky over £5 per viewer.

Why the gloating? Well BSkyB chose to broadcast Mad Men solely on its Sky Atlantic channel, which it doesn’t licence to other broadcasters. Reason, presumably, that it wanted to persuade annoyed Mad Men fans (like me) to cough up for its pay-TV service (I’m a Virgin Media sufferer).

This all very well with series that Sky Atlantic has broken in the UK, like Game of Thrones (which won an audience of 522,000 for its first episode) and the Dustin Hoffman/Nick Nolte horse racing drama Luck (although that’s been cancelled by HBO after a number of horses died, so bad luck for Sky) but completely out of order for Mad Men, where it seems 300,000 or so fans are missing out.

As such it’s utterly typical of BSkyB which delights in nicking popular programmes (like football and cricket) from free-to-air broadcasters and charging through the nose for them.

Such tactics have filled BSkyB’s coffers to the extent that it makes about £2bn a year profit. But its record with posher programmes is absolutely pathetic. Madison Avenue series Mad Men has never pulled in a huge audience anyway, despite its fame. Why the muppets at Murdoch-controlled BSkyB thought many people would watch it on Sky Atlantic is a mystery.

A Sky spokesman said: “When you look at those who watched the first episode of Mad Men live, or caught up through Sky+ or on-demand, it was the most watched episode in Sky homes ever, and by some margin. We’re delighted with the response from Sky customers and will continue to invest in the shows that create more value for our existing customers and give more people a reason to join Sky.”

Which must be one of the most fatuous and mendacious comments ever to emerge from a press office; so a leader in a pretty strong field then.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

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    You are in the right of it Steve! Much as I would like to watch the latest series, I’m hanged if I’m going to stump up for a Sky Atlantic sub. No doubt the episodes are posted up on a warez site somewhere, but life’s too short for that sort of friggin about.