Long-term plans in talks for Emmy-winning drama

“Mad Men” devotees are eagerly awaiting the show’s fourth-season preem Sunday. Execs at AMC and Lionsgate TV are looking farther down the road for a deal that would settle the show’s long-term future.

AMC’s license term for Lionsgate’s “Mad Men” runs through the show’s fifth season. Execs from the net and studio are in the early stages of hammering out a deal to extend the contract through a sixth season, and possibly beyond. Because Cablevision-owned AMC has never had to manage a license fee renegotiation for a hit series, the cabler has hired top legal eagle Jim Jackoway of Jackoway Tyerman to help navigate the deal.

The impetus for AMC and Lionsgate to cut a deal sooner rather than later stems from the fact that “Mad Men” creator/exec producer Matthew Weiner’s deal with Lionsgate for the show is up after the upcoming season. According to sources familiar with the situation, Lionsgate wants to know what kind of coin it’ll get from AMC before it turns to talks with Weiner.

Of course, Lionsgate is looking to maximize the value of “Mad Men” in a new deal with AMC. The show that has claimed the drama series Emmy two years in a row transformed AMC into a player in original series programming. And by basic cable standards, the 1960s period drama is a high-end production with a budget estimated at around $2.5 million per seg, or more in some instances. AMC’s present per-seg license fee for “Mad” is pegged by industry sources at a little more than $2 million per episode.

It’s understood that Lionsgate has the ability to shop the show to other nets for its sixth season, though AMC has the right to match any competing offers. Sources emphasized that the intent on all sides is to work out a deal that keeps “Mad Men” on its original home.

Weiner has mused publicly that six seasons might be the right number for his vision of taking “Mad Men’s” central players through the decade of the 1960s, but he’s never made a definitive statement on the oft-asked question of how long he sees the show running.

In a statement on the talks with Lionsgate, AMC said: “We never comment on ongoing negotiations. Right now our major focus is on launching season four on July 25th.”

Lionsgate TV prexy Kevin Beggs would only say that the studio “looks forward to ‘Mad Men’ being on the air for many years to come.”

Jackoway declined to comment.

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