UPDATE: AMC and Weiner have reached a deal.
ORIGINAL: AMC and Matthew Weiner have generated an impressive amount of fan outrage after contract talks stalled over Mad Men, whose next season now won’t debut until 2012 (although it looks like we’ll be getting a much-desired seventh season).
The details of the negotiations are spotty and contradictory, mainly because everything is sourced anonymously. Needless to say, AMC seems to want more/better product integration, a cheaper cast (fewer stars) and shorter run time, whereas Weiner either does/does not want more money and to maintain the artistic integrity of the show.
What’s surprising isn’t so much the details, but the press politics, all of which beg the question: is AMC no longer in love with Mad Men?
Of course, that question is somewhat ridiculous. AMC is paying handsomely for Mad Men and no one can deny the show is the network’s signature show.
Yet today we saw a network playing hardball. AMC yesterday released a statement about how Mad Men would return, apparently with or without Weiner, the show’s creative force. At first it made sense: the release would quell fan concerns about the future of the show and beef up public support for the network’s position (fans instinctively side with showrunners first).
AMC appears to be putting pressure on Weiner, looking pretty confident in making demands. Says Weiner to the Times: “I don’t understand why, with all of the success of the show, they suddenly need to change it…. All I want to do is continue to make my show, and make it in the way I want to, with the people I want to make it with.”
Why is AMC being a meany? The simple answer is: it’s a business, and Mad Men is far from stellar, based on the simplest metrics. Writes THR:
“Mad Men has never been an enormous ad-revenue generator for AMC, which pays nearly $3 million an episode to license the show. For its third season in 2009, Mad Men took in a relatively paltry $2 million in ad revenue over 13 episodes, according to Kantar Media. AMC pocketed $2.8 million the year before and about $2.25 million in 2007.”
Yes, there are DVD sales, repeats and the priceless brand recognition it gives AMC, but, as TVbytheNumbers has been harping on for years, Mad Men‘s ratings fail to come even close to the other buzzy shows on cable like True Blood or anything on USA. For a series as expensive as Mad Men, with all its press coverage, its ratings should be higher — even its artistic influence, The Sopranos, was many times more popular.
All this was fine and dandy when Mad Men was the only show AMC had — though we should also remember Mad Men has grown in popularity from its debut. But with the critical and ratings success of Breaking Bad AMC had reason to be confident. The monster hit The Walking Dead gave AMC is first real bragging rights: a ratings coup showered with critical love.
With The Killing premiering this Sunday — a show that’s been a hit in both its original Denmark and in England — AMC is building an impressive roster.
Mad Men might be AMC’s first-born, but its younger siblings (aside from the deceased Rubicion) are starting to get better grades.