After breaking the first news that Lionsgate and brilliant Mad Men creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner were at a negotiations impasse, I’m thrilled to be able to confirm tonight that they’ve reached an agreement to continue with the show for a 3rd and 4th season. As an insider told me, “The deal is done. It closed today, it’s seven figures, and he is going back to work.” So that means CAA did not get Weiner the $10 million a year that I had earlier learned the agency was asking for. Few TV types thought the economics supported that since AMC is a basic cable network, not a pay channel like HBO, and the series began with low ratings that improved dramatically by the end of Season 2. They thought even $2.5M a year too rich for a Lionsgate deal. But after all those Emmy and Golden Globe wins for Weiner and Jon Hamm, not to mention media kudos, the pressure was on AMC to keep the show’s quality up. Which is why my scoop that Lionsgate was contacting agents to find a showrunner to replace Weiner was so embarrassing to AMC. (The agents’ reactions were exactly like mine: are these suits NUTS? But also remember that Lionsgate had an order for two more seasons with or without Weiner.) So AMC ended the impasse by helping Lionsgate finance the deal to keep Weiner at the helm. I’ve no word yet on whether Weiner got the control over promotion and advertising he wanted. But he gets other TV development and a Lionsgate feature project.
Geez, this hardball negotiation really took a long time — 3 1/2 months by my calculation since Weiner’s contract on the show ran out after the second season, which wrapped in October. Then again, as one insider told me, when the sticking points involve “money, greed and a lack of understanding of the value of the franchise, what else is new?” This logjam affected everyone on the show, don’t forget. When the options on all the series regulars expired on December 31st, Weiner and Lionsgate still hadn’t made a deal. The cast, crew, writers and producers have remained in limbo until the big guys worked this out. “We can’t do the show without Matthew,” Hamm said at the time. “Of course, you ‘can’ do it, but you know you can’t.” While he waited to begin new episodes, Hamm signed to play Tina Fey’s boyfriend on 30 Rock.
Also, I’d heard that the negotiations had reached such a low point between Christmas and New Year’s Eve that Industry Entertainment had started looking for a publicist to spin Weiner’s side of the story because the bargaining looked about to break down for good. I heard the gist of it was to make Lionsgate look foolish for ruining a good thing — especially when its stock price is under tremendous pressure and corporate raider/shareholder activist Carl Icahn is stalking the studio. That’s how close this deal came to not getting done for my favorite TV show.