Following prolonged negotiations that seemed close to collapse only days before, AMC and Lionsgate announced late Thursday that they'd struck a new deal for Mad Men creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner to return for the fifth and sixth seasons of the hit period drama.
Weiner's new long-term agreement with Lionsgate also includes the option for a seventh season. "These will be the last three seasons," he told Deadline last night.
The negotiations, which pushed Mad Men's fifth-season premiere to March 2012, had reportedly stalled over cost-cutting demands from AMC and Lionsgate Television Group that included more product placement, the elimination of six cast members over the next three seasons, and the reduction of episode run times from 47 minutes to 45 minutes to allow for more commercials. The measures were characterized as necessary to help pay for Weiner's new blockbuster deal -- between $25 million and $30 million over three seasons -- which makes him one of the highest-paid showrunners on ad-supported cable. (His resistance to the cuts didn't sit well with some other showrunners: Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter Tweeted, "You can't ask a network for 10 million, then bitch when they want to expand their ad revenue source. Whore or saint, pick one.")
"It's never been about money," Weiner told Deadline. "I wanted to do the show I wanted to do and the show the audience has come to expect."
In the end, it looks like both sides gave a little ground, with Deadline reporting the upcoming fifth-season premiere and finale will be 47 minutes each, with Weiner given the option of delivering the other 11 episodes in two versions -- a 45-minute run time to air on AMC, and a 47-minute run time to air elsewhere, like Video On Demand. No cast members will be cut. However, the network apparently will pushed ahead with plans for more product placement -- but only if it's organic to the story, over which Weiner has complete control.
When Mad Men returns next March, it will have been off the air for 17 months, a hiatus similar to that once experienced by The Sopranos, the acclaimed HBO drama on which Weiner worked for three seasons.
Read the official announcement below:
AMC AND LIONSGATE ANNOUNCE MULTIPLE SEASON DEAL FOR "MAD MEN" WITH MATTHEW WEINER SIGNING LONG-TERM AGREEMENT TO CONTINUE AS SHOWRUNNER
New York - March 31, 2011 - AMC and Lionsgate today announced the return of the iconic series "Mad Men" for seasons five and six with series creator Matthew Weiner back on board as showrunner. Concurrently, it was announced that Weiner has signed a new long-term deal with Lionsgate, extending into a possible seventh season. The announcements were made by Charlie Collier, president of AMC, and Kevin Beggs, president of Lionsgate Television Group.
When AMC debuted "Mad Men" in July 2007 it quickly became one of the most talked about series on television. Set in 1960s New York, "Mad Men" is a sexy and provocative original drama that follows the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising. Produced by Lionsgate, "Mad Men" has made television history as the only cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama and the Golden Globe for Best Television Series-Drama for three consecutive years.
"I want to thank all of our wonderful fans for their support." said Weiner. "I also want to thank AMC and Lionsgate for agreeing to support the artistic freedom of myself, the cast and the crew so that we can continue to make the show exactly as we have from the beginning. I'm excited to get started on the next chapter of our story."
"AMC's original programming began with a mission to create bold storytelling of the highest quality, and 'Mad Men' was the perfect expression of that commitment. We've been proud to support this show from the day we read Matt's ground-breaking pilot script and have loved building it with Matt and Lionsgate into the cultural phenomenon it has become," said Collier. "For everyone involved in the show and its passionate fans, we are thrilled to announce that the series will continue on AMC under the exceptional vision of Matt Weiner."
"We are proud to continue our successful relationships with AMC and the brilliantly talented Matt Weiner, whose vision has created one of the most distinguished series on television," said Beggs. "We also appreciate the passion and patience of 'Mad Men' fans around the world who have been awaiting this good news, and we believe they will be rewarded with many more seasons of this extraordinary and groundbreaking series."
Mad Men's award-winning ensemble cast includes: Golden Globe-winner Jon Hamm, January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Jared Harris, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton, Robert Morse and Kiernan Shipka.