TIL: Ratings-Wise, How Do Your Favorite Basic Cable Shows Stack Up Against Each Other?

03.27.12 6 years ago 38 Comments

Television websites like WarmingGlow and others cater to a very specific, and relatively small, audience. Great television isn’t watched by a large segment of the population, at least according to traditional Nielsen measurements. Yet, it’s a show like “Mad Men,” which receives a sixth of the viewership of “American Idol” or “Breaking Bad,” which receives a tenth of the audience of “The Voice,” that soak up most of the online conversation (yesterday, for instance, escaping “Mad Men” discussion was practically impossible on the web). This should be a huge draw for advertisers: Smarter, more active television viewers with identifiable demographics (who also tend to be more affluent). That’s why a show like “Breaking Bad” can sustain itself on 1.9 million viewers a week: AMC can charge a premium for those ads, and then extend their profits in DVD sales and Netflix licensing.

Most of us, if we see ratings for basic cablers at all, tend to see them independent of one another. Measured against the top draws on cable — WWE, “Spongebob Squarepants,” “Jersey Shore,” “Big Bang Theory” reruns — many of these shows barely rate. But I was curious myself as to how the best cable shows stacked up against each other in terms of viewers. I took the liberty of finding the average number of viewers for 15 basic cable shows, just to see how they compare against each other. Keep in mind that an average network viewership for a decently rated show (like, say, “Castle”) is around 10 million viewers, “Jersey Shore” receives around 9 million viewers, and a low-rated network show like “Community” receives around 4 million.

Here’s the breakdown:

“The Walking Dead” — 9 million

“Sons of Anarchy” — 5.45 million

“Mad Men” — 3.5 million

“American Horror Story” — 3.2 million

“Justified” — 3.1 million

“Psych” — 3 million

“Wilfred” — 3.3 million

“South Park” — 2.6 million

“Futurama” — 2.5 million

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” — 2.3 million

“The Killing” — 2.3 million

“Breaking Bad” — 1.9 million

“Southland” — 1.8 million

“Louie” — 1.6 million

“Archer” — 1.5 million

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