Lionsgate TV cuts deal for streaming rights

Netflix is acting more and more like a well-heeled cable network every day. The Netcaster is diving deeper into the premium off-network syndication biz through a big-bucks deal with Lionsgate TV for the rerun rights to all seven seasons of “Mad Men.”

Netflix is believed to have nabbed exclusive rights to off-net reruns of the show, though there’s a possibility that Lionsgate could carve out a traditional cable window that would kick in long after the segs begin running on Netflix. In exchange for that exclusivity, Netflix is said to have ponied up a healthy license fee of just under $1 million per episode.

Episodes from the first four seasons of theAMC drama will bow on Netflix July 27.

The drama, which will run three more seasons under a deal wrapped just last week, will return for its fifth season in March. Episodes from the upcoming fifth, sixth and seventh seasons will not be available on Netflix until the entire season has run its course on AMC. Netflix is said to have a five-year window on the segs from the time they become available for streaming. Assuming the show runs seven seasons, “Mad Men” is projected to rack up 91 episodes.

Lionsgate is already in business with Netflix through Epix, the pay cable startup that inked a ground-breaking distribution pact with Netflix last year. (Lionsgate is a partner in Epix with Viacom and MGM.) But the pact for “Mad Men” is a stand-alone deal and does not encompass other Lionsgate TV skeins.

The pact comes together at an advantageous time for both sides. Netflix is in need of marquee shows to feed its growing Internet streaming business. And Lionsgate was in the market for a big syndication sale on its most high-profile TV series now that its long-term future has been secured with AMC.

But “Mad Men” and other cable dramas often face a syndie conundrum. Some shows become so synonymous with their original networks that they can be a tough sell to the basic cablers that are typically aggressive contenders for rerun rights to broadcast network fare — think USA Network, TNT, FX and A&E. Last summer, Netflix bought up rerun rights to FX’s long-running “Nip/Tuck” from Warner Bros. TV, which had struggled to find a traditional cable buyer for the edgy drama.

“Mad Men” has prestige and creative cachet to spare, but it still delivers a modest overall audience in primetime, a factor that also would have dampened the price in a traditional cable off-network sale. But to the Netflix demo base of cineastes, “Mad Men” reruns are a home run.

Moreover, the Netflix showcase will help keep the show’s profile up during its long hiatus between seasons four and five — a gap of more than a year resulting from the arduous negotiations between Lionsgate, AMC and creator-exec producer Matthew Weiner for the additional three seasons (Daily Variety, April 1).

Lionsgate declined to comment on the deal. A Netflix rep could not immediately be reached for comment.

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