AMC and Lionsgate have reached a deal with "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner that will renew the show for at least two more seasons and restore a cast budget that was in danger of eliminating at least two characters.
In a contract reported to be valued at $30 million, Mr. Weiner will remain showrunner and lead writer for another three seasons of "Mad Men," with production for season five set to start in July for a tentative March 2012 premiere, according to executives familiar with the show. The first and last episodes of each 13-episode season will be 47 minutes in length and run with limited commercials, while the remaining 11 episodes will be 45 minutes and feature more commercial time. Additionally, each episode will have a final cut that will be made available online and on video on demand eight days after its initial air date.
Advertising has not been a huge revenue source for "Mad Men" since its premiere in 2007. Airings of "Mad Men" took in only $1.98 million in ad revenue in 2009, according to Kantar Media. In 2008, the show nabbed just less than $2.8 million, and in 2007, approximately $2.25 million. Nor have ratings lived up to the buzz: Only 2.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the fourth season's premiere last year, although cumulative weekly viewership of new episodes can often reach 17 million to 20 million viewers after time-shifted viewing and re-airings are factored in.
A series of contract negotiations between AMC and Lionsgate had threatened to eliminate $1.5 million in the show's casting budget, but that figure was ultimately restored, executives said after the deal was done.
Additionally, Mr. Weiner will retain final creative control over product placement in the show, which in seasons past has been a mix of paid placements and unpaid production requests.
AMC had "essentially wanted Matt to become part of ad sales to help close deals with clients," said an executive close to the show. "That's not what he wanted to do. He liked the idea that people couldn't tell which things were paid placements and what wasn't."