Talks seemed to reach an impasse last week when Sony sent feelers to at least three other cable networks about taking "Breaking Bad" should an agreement with AMC fall through, said two people with knowledge of the matter who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
To be sure, negotiations between networks and producers are often heated. As shows age, they become more expensive as actors' and producers' paychecks get bigger with success. Both sides have in dictated that they hope to reach a pact that will keep "Breaking Bad" on AMC.
Discussions grew heated when AMC tried to convince the makers of of the show that its fifth season run only six to eight episodes instead of the typical 13. That was rejected by the creative forces behind the show, which led them to approach other outlets.
"Breaking Bad" is not the only show AMC is looking to trim costs on. "The Walking Dead," which became a big hit for the network, is having its per-episode budget cut by about $250,000. Last week the show's executive producer Frank Darabont left, and there is speculation that the budget cuts were the reason. People close to AMC deny that was the case.
AMC's push to lower costs on "Breaking Bad" and "The Walking Dead" comes as the price of its signature hit "Mad Men" is expected to go up: "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner landed a lucrative new deal to stay with the program for at least two new seasons.
In the unlikely event that "Breaking Bad" does move to another channel, the producers would probably have to agree to make additional seasons. It would be highly unusual for a network to commit to just one season of a show it acquires from another network.
AMC is a unit of AMC Networks, which went public earlier this summer.