Fourth season of AMC skein debuts to record high

“Mad Men” delivered for AMC on Sunday, opening its fourth season with a series-high 2.9 million viewers.

The network has to be pleased with the number. But the turnout also indicates that the show’s aud has plateaued and that its cornucopia of kudos and pop culture buzz won’t budge the Nielsen needle much.

Viewership for last summer’s third-season preem — coming 11 months after the show’s first Emmy victory for drama — came in at 2.8 million, up sharply from its season two bow (2.1 million). But the drama’s second Emmy victory last September came midway through its third season and didn’t pump aud growth.

November’s third-season finale of “Mad Men” averaged 2.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

AMC points out that last season’s premiere topped 4 million viewers when same-week DVR playback was included. The season-four preem also was the most downloaded program on iTunes.

Demo data was not available Monday; the show’s series-best national 18-49 rating was a 0.9 for last summer’s preem.

Earlier this month, “Mad Men” was nominated for 17 Primetime Emmy Awards, including the top drama prize for a third straight year.

Beginning next Sunday, “Mad Men” will air on at 10 p.m. on AMC after the premiere of conspiracy drama “Rubicon,” which will regularly air at 9 p.m. “Rubicon” had aired a sneak preview seg in June following the season finale of “Breaking Bad.”

On Friday, the premiere of Starz miniseries “The Pillars of the Earth” averaged 690,000 viewers combined on Starz (423,000) and Encore (267,000). By comparison, Starz series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” averaged 1.01 million viewers in its premiere on Starz and Encore in January.

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