'Mad Men' Global Rights Shopped as Streaming Wars Heat Up (Exclusive)

Mad Men S03E06 Still - Publicity - H 2017
Carin Baer/AMC

After 'Seinfeld' and 'Big Bang Theory" megadeals, Lionsgate hopes the Emmy-winning Jon Hamm drama sparks the next bidding war for a library title.

Look for Mad Men, which originally ran on AMC for seven seasons until 2015, to move to streaming homes.

That follows Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns telling an investors conference last week the ad agency drama's global rights will return to the studio next year.

"We retain a tremendous amount of rights. For example, in 2020, Mad Men is coming back to us, with worldwide rights available. That will be an interesting conversation, and I'm pretty sure Jeff [Hirsch] will be involved in that," Burns announced to the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference during a session that was webcast and included an appearance by Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch.

With Lionsgate bringing seven seasons of Mad Men to market, the studio is hoping to spark the industry's next bidding war for classic library programming. It's understood that Lionsgate has been drawing up a menu of options as it gets set to shop the global rights in the next couple of months.

And with Netflix paying $500 million for exclusive global streaming rights to Seinfeld and WarnerMedia spending $425 million for Friends for its HBO Max service, steep valuations for Hollywood's library shows have Lionsgate distribution execs licking their lips over the Jon Hamm-starring Mad Men.

Netflix in 2011 first inked a deal with Lionsgate TV for streaming rights to Mad Men reruns, paying nearly $1 million per episode. The battle for legacy TV shows has only heated up since, as established and upstart streaming players jockey for the rights to beloved series to entice subscribers to sign up.

Streamers from media titans including Disney (Disney+), Comcast (Peacock) and WarnerMedia (HBO Max), as well as Apple (Apple TV+), are set to launch as the media giants look to better position themselves against Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

A possible scenario for Mad Men may have the AMC drama from creator Matthew Weiner going to Netflix, or WarnerMedia's HBO Max in the U.S. and Netflix internationally. Lionsgate's Starz is also expected to enter the talks for Mad Men, and another scenario the studio may be banking on is Apple looking to nab some iconic IP for its own streaming service.

The studio is expected to target two main audiences for Mad Men. The first is those wanting to view the series again, and additionally younger viewers who didn't watch the 1960s exploits of Madison Avenue's fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency the first time around on AMC or Netflix.

Of course, Mad Men could just as easily land on Starz. Burns last week told the investors conference Lionsgate faces a balancing act to license its popular shows worldwide and domestically while also carving out windows for its own platforms.

"We're hanging onto significant rights that we can exploit with Starz and other places as well. It's really a case-by-case evaluation and working with Jeff on what our priorities are for driving viewership," Burns said.