Mad Men, a cornerstone of Lionsgate’s TV library, is seeing above-expected demand due to the COVID-19 production shutdown and surging investment in streaming, television chairman Kevin Beggs said Thursday.
The show, which completed its seven-season, Emmy-decorated run on AMC in 2015, has been streaming on Netflix, which first made a deal for the show in 2011 at nearly $1 million an episode. Lionsgate has spent the past few months shopping global rights to the series, with the price having skyrocketed over the past decade.
Speaking on a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Beggs sounded optimistic that a deal was imminent. Distribution president Jim Packer and his group have “been in a four-month sales process, which has gone really well and exceeded our expectations and probably benefited from the COVID suspension and the lack of fresh originals coming,” Beggs said. “Nothing to comment on officially yet, but it’s coming together nicely and we think we’re going to have very good news to report.”
In its newsletter yesterday, Netflix revealed that Mad Men is leaving the platform on June 9. According to sources, the streamer passed on extending the deal for Matt Weiner’s 1960s series.
The market for well-established titles has exploded as new services come to market. HBO Max spent north of $900 million for rights to Friends and South Park. NBCUniversal also opened the check book for The Office, which will begin streaming on Peacock next January. Apple is also understood to be running the numbers for licensing deals even though it launched Apple TV+ last November with a lineup entirely made up of new originals. Netflix shelled out $500 million for Seinfeld, but has indicated a willingness to exercise discipline on some library deals as it continues its long-term shift toward original programming.
Mad Men, of course, never breathed the rarefied air of the peak of the Nielsen charts. As an hour-long drama with complex, period storylines, it always had critical appeal but was never a mass hit on the scale of the aforementioned titles that hit streaming paydirt. The show’s final season averaged a 0.72 rating in the demo and 2.06 million total viewers.
Asked if Starz could potentially be a home for Mad Men, given the increasing efforts to explore synergies, Beggs said the leaders of the TV group routinely co-ordinate with Starz CEO Jeff Hirsch. The focus of those efforts, he said, is “evaluating in a free-market fashion what may be good for Starz versus other buyers in terms of getting top dollar for our participants and our shareholders.”
Weeds, another signature Lionsgate show with three cycles of syndication under its belt, “is still another year out” from being shopped, Beggs said in response to an analyst’s question citing the show. “As we’ve seen, the value of library continues to go up and up and up. We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing with Mad Men and looking forward to monetizing Weeds further on its fourth cycle.”