Don Draper is headed back to TV, beginning on Monday.
No, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner isn’t jumping on the TV revival bandwagon and producing new episodes of his ad agency drama, which aired on AMC and starred Jon Hamm as Draper. Instead, the AT&T Audience Network will air all seven seasons of the show after landing the first linear off-network rights to Weiner’s series.
Mad Men episodes will debut next Monday, June 12, and will air Monday through Friday at 6 p.m., with occasional marathons on Saturdays.
Audience Network landed rights to the show as part of the new carriage deals that Lionsgate and Starz signed with AT&T and DirecTV last September (ahead of Lionsgate closing its Starz acquisition in December); at the time, AT&T also took a small equity stake in Lionsgate.
“Part of that deal was to get access to some of their library,” said AT&T Audience Network head Chris Long of Lionsgate, which produced Mad Men, as well as the Showtime comedy Weeds, which Audience Network began airing in February. “The value proposition was, ‘Chris, would you like Mad Men to be put in syndication and stripped, and would you like Weeds?’ ‘We said, absolutely.’”
While Audience Network—which is available to subscribers of DirecTV, DirecTV Now and U-verse—airs originals like Kingdom, it has also built up a collection of acquisitions. “Mad Men falls right into NYPD Blue and Sons of Anarchy as another great premium show that I can strip in the daypart and give people an opportunity to catch up on a show they might not have seen,” said Long.
The show will air commercial-free, as is the case with all of Audience Network’s prime-time programming. That gives Audience Network an advantage over its competitors. “People don’t like to watch commercials, and soon as you go to commercial, they inherently will switch. We’ve seen unbelievable ratings spikes in our viewership because we’re commercial free,” said Long, pointing at increases shortly after NYPD Blue debuted in 2014.
While Audience Network is the first linear network to have Mad Men’s off-network rights, the show has been streaming on Netflix since 2011.
Long said he still can’t believe his luck at landing one of the most critically-acclaimed series of all time. “When they were listing the names [of Lionsgate titles], I go, ‘no no no, let’s go back to the first one. Did you say Mad Men?’ And they said, ‘yes,’” recalled Long. “And then I was just as excited about Weeds.”
The network won’t launch a big marketing campaign to celebrate Mad Men’s move to the network. “I think we have to focus on what we can tout as exclusive,” said Long. “I would never want to use somebody else’s proprietary idea and say, this was mine. I wouldn’t want somebody to take Kingdom in syndication and go, look, it’s the first time you’ve ever seen this! That would really irritate me.”
Mad Men ended in 2015 after seven seasons. Creator Weiner told Adweek last December that while he was making the series, “I don’t think I was really able to absorb that it meant so much to the audience. That’s something that I have enjoyed since it ended. Also, that if you can imagine when the show went on the air, there was no iPad, there was no iPhone, there was nothing streaming. Netflix happened during this; the entire model of television changed during it.”