EXCLUSIVE: It takes a lot to shock me when it comes to Hollywood business. But this is lunacy. I’ve confirmed that Lionsgate execs are calling Hollywood agencies looking for a showrunner to replace Matthew Weiner, the brilliant creator of Mad Men. The reason is that they think Weiner’s agents at CAA are asking for too much money for him. I hear CAA wants a multi-year deal that pays Weiner $10 million a year. (As opposed to what people tell me is the $2.5 million he should probably pocket…) Plus he wants control over promotion and advertising. Now that’s consistent with a big hit on pay cable and what Darren Star or David Chase made on HBO. But it’s way, way rich for a Lionsgate show on AMC, and execs are telling CAA it can’t pay that. “The ‘ask’ was insanity,” one insider tells me. “It’s preposterous. AMC is a basic cable network. The economics don’t support this. It’s why Lionsgate is throwing their arms up in the air. And, remember, they got a two-year pickup for the show with or without Matt Weiner.” So Lionsgate picked up the phone and began asking the tenpercenteries for a “general list” of possible showrunners, and about the availability of specific names (like Aaron Sorkin). The agents’ reactions were exactly like mine: are these suits NUTS?
Of course, no one decent would ever trample on Weiner’s toes unless he blessed it. But this is also the surest way to fuck up the first basic cable program to ever win the Emmy for best drama. And let’s not forget that the AMC show ended its 2nd season Sunday with record ratings. Sunday’s finale averaged 1.75 million total viewers for its 10 PM airing, an 89% improvement over the first-season finale’s 926,000. Compared with Season 1,saw a 63% increase in total viewers (an average of 1.5 million viewers vs. 925,000), a 109% jump in the adults 18-49 demo (705,000 vs. 338,000) and an 81% increase in adults 25-54 (780,000 vs. 430,000). Those still aren’t great numbers even if every thinking person loves the series. When I asked a Lionsgate source about this situation, I was told, “We’re negotiating with Matthew Weiner. But we want him back…” Then why do this? My bet is it’s a reaction to having Carl Icahn crawling up Jon Feltheimer’s ass.