After months of tense negotiations between AMC and Mad Men creator Matt Weiner, the stylish period drama is back on course for another two-season run.
Per terms of the deal between AMC and Lionsgate, Weiner will return as show runner for the fifth and sixth seasons of the Golden Globe-winning series. Because of the delay in getting a contract signed, AMC will delay the premiere of the upcoming season, bringing Mad Men back in March 2012 rather than its customary summer slot.
A seventh season is said to be a strong possibility.
“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,” said AMC president Charlie Collier, by way of announcing the renewal. “We’ve been proud to support this show from the day we read Matt’s groundbreaking pilot script and have loved building it with Matt and Lionsgate into the cultural phenomenon it has become.”
After reports had surfaced suggesting that a number of regulars would be cut from the cast in order to slim the show’s budget, both parties were quick to confirm that the entire Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce crew will be present and accounted for when Mad Men returns next spring.
Mad Men is the most expensive program on basic cable, with a budget of around $3 million per episode.
Weiner and AMC had locked horns over a number of deal points, but chief among these were his salary and the show’s running time. AMC was looking to add inventory to each episode of Mad Men, which carries a relatively light load at 13 minutes of national and local avails.
The running time is not expected to change in any significant way, as Weiner has agreed to cede just two minutes per installment. That said, it is likely that AMC will push for more integrations and thematic interstitials; after all, someone has to pay for that sumptuous set, the period costumes and the cast salaries.
While Mad Men established AMC as a destination for superb original drama, the show has never been a ratings blockbuster. The Oct. 17 season-four finale drew 2.44 million total viewers, down 20 percent from the July 25 opener (2.92 million). By comparison, AMC’s most recent hit, the zombie apocalypse drama The Walking Dead, averaged 6.64 million viewers during its freshman run, 57 percent of which were time-shifters.
Per Kantar Media analysis, season three of Mad Men generated just shy of $2 million in ad sales revenue for AMC.