While announcing they had worked out a way to squeeze more ad time from Mad Men, AMC confirmed the series will be returning for it's third season on Sunday August 16th. It's slated to run in the 10pm time slot, which is famously HBO territory when it comes to high quality scripted programming in the cable world.
In years past HBO had become known for the 9pm-11pm Sunday evening slots with the success of Sex And The City and The Sopranos. After Sex and Sopranos ended, other cablers like USA moved in with In Plain Sight and then AMC dipped it's toe into the water with Breaking Bad and then season two of Mad Men.
It must have worked because they're sticking with it.
Regular networks had always been hit heavy with Sundays, especially ABC who airs their Desperate Housewives/Brothers & Sisters duo then. And of course football is always a big winner for the night.
The big hoopla with more time for advertising has been worked out, apparently. AMC wanted to add two more minutes of ads during the hit show in order to make up for the higher licensing fees the third season was demanding. Since the beginning it had been noted that AMC wasn't even paying producers enough to cover their entire budget.
The studio and producers were so sure they had a hit on their hands that they were willing to wait for DVD sales and whatnot to make up for it. Now that the show has proved itself as a huge hit and won numerous awards the network, I assume, has probably reached the point were they have no choice and have to pay enough fees for the entire budget.
The deal struck between the creatives and suits means that each episode will still run 47-48 minutes, about 5-6 minutes longer than network fare and 3-4 minutes longer than most cable shows, but will air from 10pm-11:02pm. They've also worked out the kinks, assuring all that the technical side of things are being handled so that DVR's will not cut off at 11pm sharp.
I wish all networks, cable or not, would wake up and follow AMC's lead. Cable network FX is already really good about this while sister broadcast network Fox is terrible.