With 11 days left until the license fee deal on AMC’s drama Breaking Bad is set to expire, the network and producing studio Sony Pictures Television are heading into the homestretch of their negotiations for a fifth season of the dark series starring Bryan Cranston. Despite Sony sending out feelers to other cable networks and reportedly getting interest from FX, all sides feel confident that Breaking Bad will return to AMC for what is expected to be its final chapter. Creator Vince Gilligan had made it clear that he wants to end the series after Season 5. I’ve learned that AMC has an offer on the table for a standard 13-episode fifth season but Sony is looking for more. People close to the matter expect the final deal to be for 13-20 episodes, possibly spread over 2 seasons. Besides pinning down the exact size of the order, a sticking point has been who will shoulder the production cost for Breaking Bad going forward. In TV, starting with Season 5, the network take over 100% of a show’s production cost. In the early days of original series on basic cable, the networks didn’t know quite how to handle the tricky Season 4-Season 5 transition financially and tended to cancel shows after four seasons, like Lifetime’s Any Day Now. In the case of Breaking Bad, I hear AMC is asking Sony for some participation in the budget, which most recently was around $3.2 million an episode. AMC and Sony’s previous license negotiation last year was also lengthy and difficult. But this time around, a renewal appeared a much easier proposition, given the series’ double-digit ratings growth for the start of Season 4, including posting a series high with the season premiere. Additionally, the auxiliary market, where Breaking Bad had been far weaker than AMC’s signature series Mad Men, also has picked up. Thanks in part to a savvy deal Sony made with Walmart, DVD sales for Season 3 went up double digits from Season 2, a rare feat for a series these says. And after it wraps a deal for the show, Sony has to also forge a new pact with Gilligan whose contract is also up after this season.
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