For a network that has only 5 shows on the air, AMC has been in the headlines with series-related issues an awful lot during the past 8 months, first over the difficult and very public negotiations with Mad Men creator Matt Weiner and more recently over the abrupt exit of The Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont and the ongoing negotiations for Breaking Bad. I caught up tonight with AMC president Charlie Collier who declined to discuss the specifics surrounding the Breaking Bad talks with producer Sony Pictures TV and Darabont’s departure but addressed several other issues that have been the subject of a lot of speculation, including rumored budget cuts on Walking Dead which some have linked to Darabont’s exit and reported AMC demands for a 6-8-episode fifth season of Breaking Bad.
Deadline: Did you cut the budget on The Walking Dead in Season 2?
Collier: If you look at pilot budgets vs. pattern budgets usually the pilot budget is much higher than what ends up being the pattern budget. With The Walking Dead, instead of doing a pilot, we went straight to 6 episodes because we believed in the team and the talent in front and behind the camera. Then we came back with a 13-episode second season, and amortization over 13 episodes is very different than over 6. But we settled into one of the highest pattern budgets for a basic cable series.
Deadline: So the overall budget for Season 2 is lower than the Season 1 because of the amortization factor?
Collier: We went straight to series, with the first season serving in many ways as a pilot, and then we have settled into a 13-episode pattern budget.
Deadline: Did AMC want to truncate season 5 of Breaking Bad?
Collier: There has been a lot reported about this negotiation, but we would never comment on an open negotiation in the press. There have been all sorts of scenarios about how to bring Breaking Bad back on our air, we proposed many scenarios not just one format. The truth is that we have productive negotiations with Sony in hopes of doing right by both companies and the fans of this great show.
Deadline: Matt Weiner’s deal was very lucrative, estimated at $25 million-$30 million. How does that impact your investments in other programming?
Collier: The Mad Men deal is one that we are incredibly proud of. We had 2 goals going into the negotiations: first, to bring back Matt Weiner and secondly, to assure that the show not only starts on AMC, but that when Matt is ready, it will also conclude on our air. But to answer your question, the Mad Men negotiation had nothing to do with our other programming. Going into Mad Men we knew that right behind it would be negotiations on Breaking Bad, The Killing and others. The negotiations for Mad Men were factored into our plans. Some have reported that the Mad Men deal has affected our assessment of other programming and nothing could be further from the truth.
Deadline: AMC has been in the headlines with a lot of high profile issues as of late. Is the network having growing pains?
Collier: Negotiations, staffing issues, good and bad reviews, it’s all part of the business. Ours happen to be a little higher profile right now. We feel privileged to be telling some of the best stories on television and working with some of the most talented people in the business.