Did Mad Men Take All AMC’s Money?

One more thing about the AMC budget flap: it’s been argued in several places, starting with some of the sources for this L.A. Times article, that the budget cuts to Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead have something to do with the huge deal Mad Men got: once Matt Weiner had his big contract, there was less money to go around and AMC had to economize ruthlessly with its other shows. I don’t think this makes a great deal of sense to me, though. Maybe Mad Men was lucky because it was the first show to make a deal, and maybe AMC was even more determined to slash budgets after it failed to cut very much from Mad Men (though you’ll recall it did win the right to make some cuts in running time). But the idea that Mad Men took more than its share of the pie implies that the budget of one project has an absolute, causal relationship to the budget of another project, which seems dubious.

Besides, all signs have been that AMC wants to make a big display of cutting budgets where it can; apart from the reasons discussed in earlier posts, the fact that it recently went public seems to be a factor. (It would take someone with more business knowledge than I to really explain how exactly it factors in, though. Maybe they just need to prove to potential shareholders that they take a hard line on budgets. I don’t really know.) Which means the negotiations with Sony over Breaking Bad, and with Frank Darabont over The Walking Dead, would have been rough no matter what Mad Men‘s deal was.

Finally, of course, it seems a bit unfair to imply that Weiner and Jon Hamm and other Mad Men people who got big contracts are somehow taking the money away from other shows on the network. The talent is supposed to demand the best deal it can get. The network is supposed to know how much it can afford to give. It’s Weiner’s job to keep Mad Men on-budget, but it is not his job to keep AMC within its budget. If the network told Weiner that the contract he was demanding would cause their other shows to suffer massive budget cuts, he’d have no reason to think that was anything other than a standard negotiating ploy. Pleading poverty, and trying to make the talent feel guilty about his or her demands, are not exactly new tactics in entertainment, sports, or many other fields.

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