AMC has got that prequel-thing working for it these days having struck gold twice -- once with “Fear the Walking Dead”, and the focus of this blog, “Better Call Saul”, the prequel of AMC’s multi award-winning series, “Breaking Bad.”
For those unfamiliar with “Breaking Bad”, perhaps you can think of the show (which ended in 2013) as a uniquely American story – that is, when an inexorable rise in health care costs is stirred with a menacing cocktail of methamphetamines (or ”meth” in the street vernacular.) “Breaking Bad” follows the (dramatic and violent) misadventures of enigmatic Walter White (played brilliantly by the actor, Bryan Cranston), who is terminally ill and – having lived his life as a high school chemistry teacher – doesn’t exactly have the kind of funds needed for his treatment nor an inheritance to leave his beloved family. So, he utilizes his vocational skills to earn a “little” extra side money – that is, cooking up a very high grade of methamphetamine.
Over the course of five seasons, with so many richly drawn characters and plots, there is not nearly enough space to adequately describe this critically-acclaimed series, so I’ll just cut to the chase and briefly mention episode 8 of Season Two (entitled, “Better Call Saul”) in which the show introduces a shady (make that sleaze ball) lawyer by the name of Saul Goodman (played by actor Bob Odenkirk), and whose moral compass is (shall we say) highly variable depending on the circumstances..
Perhaps seeing the end in sight for “Breaking Bad”, the creators of the show mentioned that they were thinking of a spin-off based on the character of Saul Goodman. The quirky, dark prequel, which premiered in 2015, features the shady lawyer six years before “Breaking Bad” and before he assumed the name of Saul Goodman. You see, his “real” name is “Jimmie McGill”, who started out as a two-bit hustler before morphing into a shyster lawyer.
To say “Better Call Saul” had a little wind at its back with its “Breaking Bad” connection would be an understatement. The 2015 premiere episode (entitled “Uno”) blew out of the gates on February 8th with a 3.0 U.S. Household rating (capturing a 4.1 share of all viewing.) The excitement and hype surrounding the show died down, and it settled in for the rest of the season achieving solid Live ratings hovering at less than half the premiere episode:
An important point to keep in mind is that Live ratings are only part of the story when it comes to scripted dramas, and “Better Call Saul” is no exception. In the graph below, you can see that Live plus 15-Day DVR viewing propelled the show to household ratings within the 6.0 to 8.0 range:
Upscale & Educated
“Better Call Saul” attracts a very high concentration of homes that are both upscale and highly educated. In the graph directly below, you can see household ratings rise with higher levels of income. Homes with $250,000+ income, for example, have a rating more than 80% higher than the rating for homes with under $30,000 a year in income (2.20 vs. 1.21.) And in the chart below that, homes that contain a member with an advanced graduate degree watch “Better Call Saul” at a 23% greater rate (123.1 Index) than the average American home:
Local Cable Advertising Demand
“Better Call Saul” has been on air for only one season, so we have no baseline comparisons to quantify year-over-year sales metrics. The sales metrics for Season One, however, were very strong with the show attracting 129 inaugural local advertisers across 56 Viamedia markets, which represents 75% of Viamedia’s national footprint. On average, each local advertiser ordered thirteen 30-second spots for the season, so on average they appeared in each and every 2015 episode. (Source: B.I.G.SM database -- Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
The high profile, scripted dramas we’ve covered in this space all follow a similar pattern when it comes to local cable advertising – plenty of automotive and tune-in and “Better Call Saul” is no exception with the two categories carving out the largest share (60% combined.) And while the next two categories Sporting Goods and Schools/Recruitment accrued only a 15% share between them, that figure is roughly four-to-five times greater than what these categories represent company–wide:
On to Season Two
Perhaps the greatest achievement of “Better Call Saul” was the balancing act the show achieved in Season One as it went on to establish its own dark, quirky narrative independent of the show that launched it. That was no mean feat. On the one hand, “Better Call Saul” is inextricably linked to “Breaking Bad’’ having extended the life of a popular, major character (Saul Goodman, now Jimmie McGill); and on the other hand, the creators had an entirely new show on their hands that would have fared poorly had it gone back to the “Breaking Bad” well once too often. In the end, “Better Call Saul” was nominated for several Emmy Awards, which is a pretty good indication the writers and directors got it right the first time around – much to the delight of television audiences who will be hunkered down to catch Season Two with the premiere episode on February 15th.