If you’d like to save some time, the answer to the headline is, “No, probably not.” But the chance that Breaking Bad will go off-network for season five is greater than zero. Talks are ongoing between AMC and Sony Television to produce another season at the network. AMC proposed an order of six to eight episodes rather than the normal thirteen; the creative team promptly rejected that offer.
Sources inform the LA Times Sony “sent feelers to at least three other cable networks” in a move that is likely equal parts negotiating tactic and backup plan. More after the
AMC has previously had trouble locking down Mad Men. In the initial struggle, I attributed that mostly to creator Matthew Weiner, who was seeking an unprecedented deal for a writer/producer on a basic cable show. You could attribute the subsequent breakdown over season five negotiations to Weiner again, especially since he ended up with $30 million for three more seasons. Then word leaked about budget cuts on The Walking Dead which, unlike Breaking Bad and Mad Men, is an unqualified commercial hit for the network. Couple this news with the announcement that Frank Darabont had stepped down as Walking Dead showrunner — not to mention the fact that the Killing finale sucked — and it’s clear not all is well at the American Movie Channel. AMC is starting to develop a reputation as the Marvel of the TV world: quality product, but tough negotiators.
To reiterate, the acclaimed drama will almost certainly stay at AMC. What intrigues me is creator Vince Gilligan’s flexibility on the scope of the series. The initial plan (purportedly) was a four season arc. Given the negotiations, that has obviously been extended to at least five seasons. As the Times notes, it’s unlikely any outside network would sign up for a one-and-done — if the show does go to another network, we may expect at least two more seasons.
By the way, any guesses for the three networks? Breaking Bad would be a great fit for FX, though I don’t know they’d be interested. I bet Starz got a call — that would be good for exposure as they try to develop into a major player among premium cable networks. Nothing else fits quite so well, though you might as well ask HBO if you’re sending out resumes.