October 29, 2008 at 04:02 AM EDT

Could the winner of this year’s Best Drama Emmy be on the lookout for a

new head writer? It could happen, if Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner doesn’t close a new deal with Lionsgate, the studio behind his AMC show. Sources at several talent agencies have confirmed that they have received calls from Lionsgate, inquiring about the availability of other showrunners should the studio fail to reach an agreement with Weiner. His pact expired at the end of Mad Men‘s second season, on Oct. 26. AMC has already exercised its option to order a third season of Mad Men, which attracted 1.75 million viewers for its second-season finale — a sizable leap from its season 1 ender (926,000). Even before he took home the gold for Mad Men in September, Weiner had reportedly met with several other studios to explore his options outside of Lionsgate. In fact, one studio source told that Weiner is seeking a $2 million-per-year development pact — though this same source was hesitant about even considering the deal because “[Weiner] will never leave Mad Men.”

Given the heat surrounding Mad Men, it seems logical that Lionsgate will figure out a way to ultimately make Weiner happy and keep him on a show that has helped re-brand AMC as a destination for original dramatic programming. At the same time, Mad Men hasn’t exactly set fire to the house of Nielsen: The show only averaged 1.2 million total viewers during its second season. Still, few basic cable programs have generated the kind of adoration from critics (and competing network suits) as Mad Men has during the past two years, and the show has generated enough buzz that its star, Jon Hamm (pictured, far right), even hosted Saturday Night Live last weekend.

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