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‘Mad Men’ Premiere Draws Record Viewers on Netflix Boost

AMC Networks Inc.’s season debut of “Mad Men” was the series’ most-watched episode, aided by a streaming deal with Netflix Inc. that made past seasons available to viewers.

The two-hour premiere for season five collected 3.5 million viewers, 20 percent more than the debut for series four, New York-based AMC said today in an e-mailed statement, citing data from Nielsen.

The audience grew because earlier seasons were available on Netflix’s subscription service during a 17-month hiatus, Benjamin Mogil, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co., wrote today in a report. That allowed viewers to catch up on past episodes or be introduced to the program, increasing demand for last night’s broadcast, he said.

The new season, which airs on the AMC cable channel, was delayed a year because of contract talks between Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, and producer Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. After an agreement was reached last March, Lions Gate signed a pact with Los Gatos, California-based Netflix in April to make past seasons available online.

“The ratings strength is certainly a positive for AMC,” Mogil wrote. Netflix availability “continues to support new airing ratings,” he wrote.

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“Mad Men,” which began five years ago, follows Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, and other advertising executives working on Madison Avenue in the 1960s.

AMC Networks, also owner of the Sundance Channel, fell 0.8 percent to $44.32 at 4 p.m. in New York trading. The company has climbed 18 percent this year.

Season four’s first episode of “Mad Men” drew 2.92 million, Mogil said, citing data from Nielsen Holdings NV. That season averaged 2.3 million viewers, and the finale attracted 2.4 million, he said.

Lions Gate is making seasons one through seven of “Mad Men” available on Netflix, where each new season is delayed by a year. That arrangement will also help Lions Gate sell DVDs of the show and gain more money for licensing the program to networks outside the U.S., Mogil wrote.

AMC also has agreements with Netflix for past seasons of the shows “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad.”

Lions Gate, based in Vancouver and operated from Santa Monica, California, rose 4.5 percent to $15.18 and has gained 83 percent this year. The company released “The Hunger Games” over the weekend. The film beat estimates and collected $153 million in U.S. ticket sales, according to figures compiled by Box-Office.

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