AMC and Sony reach new deal for 'Breaking Bad'
For weeks, AMC and Sony Television, the studio behind the drama about an ailing high school teacher who turns to selling crystal meth to make ends meet, had been bickering over a new deal for a fifth and final season of the show. Talks got so bad that Sony actually shopped the show to other cable networks including News Corp.'s FX.
One of the issues over the show was costs and how many episodes would be produced for the final season. Sony wanted 13 episodes, whereas AMC was hoping to order just half a dozen or so in a cost-saving move.
Although AMC has ordered 16 episodes, it is not likely it will air the episodes as one season. Instead, the cable channel is expected to space the episodes out over the next few years. AMC said production on the last 16 would start next year but declined to comment on when they would air. The fourth season is currently underway.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that "Breaking Bad" will not air on AMC at all in 2012 and instead will return in 2013 and wrap up in 2014. AMC did not bring "Mad Men" back this year, choosing instead to start the next season in early 2012.
Part of the reason a network would do that is that typically the cost of producing the show does not have to be accounted for on the books until the episodes are run. AMC premiered the new series "The Killing" this year and brought back "Breaking Bad." Keeping "Mad Men" off this year, even though production has just started on the new season, will mean lower programming expenses, according to an executive at a rival cable network that carries a heavy load of original programming, who did not want to comment publicly about a competitor.
The difficulty in sealing a deal on "Breaking Bad" coupled with budget cuts on AMC's biggest hit "The Walking Dead" -- which also led to the departure of that drama's showrunner Frank Darabont -- has been the subject of much talk in Hollywood. AMC executives have denied that its lucrative deal for "Mad Men" showrunner Matt Weiner to stay on that show for a few more seasons is the cause of the financial issues at the other shows. However, AMC, a unit of AMC Networks, has declined to elaborate on why Darabont left "The Walking Dead" or what the issues were in cutting a new deal for "Breaking Bad."
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, and Bryan Cranston in "Breaking Bad." Credit: Ursula Coyote / AMC