After tense and public negotiations, AMC just closed a deal with producer Sony Pictures TV to renew dark drama Breaking Bad for a final batch of 16 episodes. The episodes are expected to be filmed together but may be split into two seasons, with a final scheduling decision to be made at a later date. The deal comes just as the series was facing two deadlines: its license deal with AMC was set to expire tomorrow and the options on the actors are up Aug. 31. The two sides have reached a compromise over the stickiest issue — who will cover the series’ budget of $3 million-plus. I hear both Sony TV and AMC will contribute. While negotiations were contentious and Sony did flirt with the idea of moving Breaking Bad to another network, the two sides started making progress over the past two weeks, leading to today’s deal. With the series renewal secured, Sony TV now has to make a new deal with Breaking Bad creator/executive producer Vince Gilligan, who doesn’t have a contract beyond Season 4 but is fully expected to return for the series’ final hurrah. The cast, led by Emmy winners Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, may also renegotiate their deals.

UPDATE 6 PM: AMC just issued a release announcing the final pickup for Breaking Bad. Here it is:

New York – NY, August, 14, 2011 – AMC announced today that “Breaking Bad,” the Emmy Award-winning and critically lauded drama series from acclaimed writer/producer/director Vince Gilligan has been renewed for a 16 episode order that will conclude the series. Production on all episodes of the final order will commence in early 2012. The roll-out of the episodes and premiere date schedule has yet to be determined by the network. The announcement was made by Charlie Collier, president of AMC. (more…)