Kurt Sutter, the colorful and occasionally churlish creator of the FX biker smash Sons Of Anarchy that wrapped its fourth and most successful campaign last night, is optimistic that his show will see a seventh season. Or more. SOA already has been renewed for a fifth season of 13 episodes. He said during a conference call with reporters this morning: “We’re hoping to be able to tell the story we want to tell in a seven-season arc, to have the length of time to do that. At least we’re open to exploring that.” But he added that his experience as a writer/executive producer on The Shield tells him that “the above-the-line costs can become too much” when trying to go beyond season seven. The reason Sutter is even able to consider three seasons into the future is the fact SOA just enjoyed its highest-rated season, standing as the No. 2 scripted drama on basic cable (trailing only AMC’s The Walking Dead) and the highest-rated series ever on FX. He credits the show’s increasing viewership in part to its availability over Netflix. “It helped people really plug into and get into the show the first few seasons,” Sutter believes. “It’s been really important to our rise.”

Equally important, Sutter believes, has been his drama’s ability to skirt the difficult line between art and commerce. “I’m very aware that I’m writing a show for television,” he said, “so I do want to write storylines that are rich and complex and characters that are three-dimensional. We’re fortunate to have actors who weekly give tremendous performances. But there’s also an element of the show that’s incredibly pulpy and entertaining, and that’s as important as the rich, deep character stuff. I have no desire to run a show that only a couple of hundred people watch. If I wanted that kind of audience, I’d go do theater. … I’m not writing the show in a vacuum. And I’m an egomaniac. I want to be loved, honored, worshiped and adored by everyone. So I want a big audience. I love the fact we’re beating the (broadcast) networks in key demos.” Sutter credited the show’s healthy ratings to “the fact I surround myself with people who are way more talented than I am. And great actors.”

Sutter admitted that he’s considering altering the SOA pace for Season 5 so that there is perhaps a bit less tumult packed throughout each episode. “My sense for next season is that it will be a slower boil,” he said. “This season, everyone was sort of out of breath by the end of every episode, and my sense is that next season that won’t be the case.” He added that he was open to continuing to have guest stars appear on SOA who also worked with him on The Shield but was reluctant to have it extend to that show’s stars Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins. “I think it would be impossible for them to be perceived as somebody else in this world. It would be too distracting to bring them onto the show, as much as I love and adore them as actors and people.” And he hasn’t yet decided how Sons will wrap, noting this morning, “Whether they’ll all wind up dead in a big puddle of blood at the end has yet to be determined.”