UPDATE 1-'Mad Men' to return for final three seasons

Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:20pm EDT

* "Mad Men" creator signs $30 million deal

* Ad agency drama will end after three more seasons

* Show's return still delayed until 2012 (Adds Weiner confirming show will end run in three seasons)

LOS ANGELES, March 31 (Reuters) - "Mad Men" will return to the air in early 2012 for a final three-season run, the creator of the ad-agency drama said on Thursday after announcing a resolution of tense contract negotiations.

Matt Weiner's lucrative new deal, which a source said was worth about $30 million over three years, was unveiled two days after cable channel AMC said the Emmy-winning show would not return this summer because of the talks impasse.

Even with the settlement, the fifth season will still not premiere until around March, since production has not yet begun and other shows have been slated in its place.

"These will be the last three seasons," Weiner told Hollywood news outlet Deadline.com, adding that he turned down a deal four or five times in the last few days.

Weiner had been at loggerheads with AMC and producer Lionsgate over three key issues: running time, budget and product placement.

Under a compromise, the season opener and finale will clock in at 47 minutes each, just as all the episodes did last season. The other 11 episodes will be 45 minutes each, although Weiner has the option to produce 47-minute versions for other platforms, such as digital downloads and DVDs.

Details on the show's budget were not specified, but the source said no cast cuts would be required unless Weiner wanted to kill off characters to fit in with his storyline. Speculation had run rampant in recent days that Weiner would be forced to reduce the payroll because of a tighter budget.

While Weiner will continue to have full creative control over the show, including the use of commercial products, AMC and Lionsgate will make it easier for advertisers to trumpet their involvement, the source said.

"Mad Men," revolving around the martini-swilling staff at a Madison Avenue agency in the turbulent 1960s, organically incorporates well known consumer products in its episodes.

Despite drawing tiny ratings for AMC, it is one of the most acclaimed shows on television and won the best drama Emmy for three consecutive years. Its fourth season, which ended last October, will be eligible for the Emmy Awards in September.

AMC is a unit of Cablevision Systems Corp (CVC.N). Lionsgate is a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp (LGF.N). (Reporting by Dean Goodman: Editing by Chris Wilson)

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