the streaming wars

Mad Men Is Moving to a New (Old) Home

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn / AMC

Just weeks after leaving Netflix, Mad Men has found a new (old) home for subscription-based viewing: AMC Networks. The company, whose AMC cable network green-lit Matt Weiner’s period drama and aired it for its full seven-season run, has struck a deal with production studio Lionsgate Television, giving it broad U.S. rights to the show on multiple platforms, including linear cable networks and subscription video on demand services.

But AMC will share custody of the Sterling Cooper gang: Amazon’s free, ad-supported IMDb TV service has also snagged a piece of Mad Men, part of a complex, multi-platform (and almost certainly lucrative) licensing agreement that replaces a streaming deal Lionsgate and Netflix struck back in 2011. Mad Men’s short sabbatical from streaming in the U.S. ends on July 15, when the show will be added to IMDb TV. The streamer, which is integrated into Amazon’s Prime Video and Fire TV offerings, is available to anyone for free via web browser and apps. It offers thousands of hours of content with limited advertising and has been rapidly growing its catalogue of acquired series and movies. Perhaps not coincidentally, Mad Men will roll out on IMDb TV the same day as the national launch of NBCUniversal’s similar, ad-supported Peacock streamer. IMDb TV will be the only free streaming service in the U.S. with access to Mad Men.

After an exclusive window on IMDb TV, the AMC Networks portion of the deal kicks in early this fall. At that point, AMC Networks will get the right to air Mad Men reruns on its cable channels (AMC, Sundance, and BBC America) and add the show to its various subscription-based streaming services, potentially including Sundance Now and the recently launched AMC Plus. The latter is currently only available to Comcast subscribers, but it seems likely AMC Networks will expand access to AMC Plus in coming months, with Mad Men as a signature offering. Ed Carroll, chief operating officer of AMC Networks, said that when it premiered in 2007, Mad Men “became the definition of ‘talked-about television’ — and for our company began a period of distinction and impact that continues to this day.” Carroll said the company was happy to bring the show “home to AMC, and again be able to share these unforgettable characters … with fans, new and old, on a variety of platforms.”

Lionsgate’s licensing deal for Mad Men also includes an international component. Outside the States, the series will stream on Amazon’s Prime Video International platform as well as the Lionsgate-owned Starz Play streamer. Prime Video International’s launch of the show starts July 3, when the show will begin streaming in Europe, Australia, Latin America, and other countries. It debuts on Prime in Canada on October 1. Lionsgate president of Worldwide Television & Digital Distribution Jim Packer called Mad Men “an evergreen property whose appeal has continued to grow over the years” and said the studio had worked to find “a diverse alliance of … partners from every part of the content ecosystem.”

One change audiences will note when Mad Men returns: The season-three episode “My Old Kentucky Home,” in which Roger (John Slattery) dons blackface and sings to his bride, will now carry a disclaimer explaining why the show opted for the plotline. “This episode contains disturbing images related to race in America,” the title card will read. “One of the characters is shown in blackface as part of an episode that shows how commonplace racism was in America in 1963. In its reliance on historical authenticity, the series producers are committed to exposing the injustices and inequities within our society that continue to this day so we can examine even the most painful parts of our history in order to reflect on who we are today and who we want to become. We are therefore presenting the original episode in its entirety.”

Mad Men Is Moving to a New (Old) Home