Nobody likes saying goodbye to their favorite shows. Even if they end perfectly, I suspect there’s a part of most of us who would love for there to be more episodes, more stories, involving the characters we came to know and love.
Not many of us, though, have Jeffrey Katzenberg’s kind of money, nor the audacity to offer $75 million to produce three additional episodes of “Breaking Bad.”
According to Variety, Katzenberg told a group of TV executives in Cannes that he offered to pay for three additional hours of “Breaking Bad” for a total of $75 million, which he would have then streamed online for a month as daily six-minute segments, charging viewers between 50 and 99 cents per installment.
“I said (to them), ‘I”m going to create the greatest pay-per-view television event for scripted programming anybody”s ever done,” ” he told the crowd at Mipcom.
Of course, Katzenberg then found out how definitively “Breaking Bad” was going to end, and that put a kibosh on the idea. (Since the news broke today, various fans – and even one “Breaking Bad” writer/producer – have been suggesting unresolved stories these episodes could have dealt with, from Jesse’s attempt to go to Alaska to Huell’s time in the DEA safe house.)
What’s fascinating about this is that Katzenberg’s impulses are coming from two different places at once. On the one hand, he’s a (ridiculously wealthy) “Breaking Bad” fan who wanted the story to continue a little longer. On the other hand, he’s also a savvy executive who saw an opportunity to try out a new business model and potentially reap an enormous reward from it.
When I was a guest on The B.S. Report a couple of weeks ago, Bill Simmons asked me if I would pay sixty bucks to get to watch the “Breaking Bad” finale two nights early on pay-per-view. I said I would feel annoyed that AMC was going for a cash grab after five seasons of providing episodes to me for just the cost of my cable subscription, but also admitted that I would have paid that amount. And though I wouldn’t love seeing “Breaking Bad” cut into six-minute segments, nor having to watch on my laptop versus my big flatscreen TV, I suspect I would’ve paid the 15 to 30 bucks Katzenberg would have charged me for these additional installments. And I doubt I’m alone in this.
The business is changing so rapidly, and there are now so many opportunities to make content available in new ways – and at new cost structures – that I would be surprised if we don’t see someone actually pull this off within the next five years. It’s going to require the right TV show – one with a passionate fanbase willing to pay extra – and it’s going to require someone getting in way ahead of time to ensure the ending allowed for it(*), but if the planets align just so, this will happen. And if the audience goes along with it, it will happen more and more and more.
(*) Had Katzenberg reached out, say, a year ago, I could imagine a circumstance where Vince Gilligan and company produced three extra episodes leading up to the events of “To’hajiilee,” and then “Ozymandias,” “Granite State” and “Felina” would have been the episodes streamed online. And it would be a lousy way to watch those episodes, but it would have made an enormous profit for everyone involved. But there are other shows with less definitive conclusions – “Friday Night Lights,” or “The Shield” – that would allow for new episodes to be created after the last one that aired on television.
To quote Walter White, there is gold in the streets, just waiting for somebody to come along and scoop it up. Jeffrey Katzenberg tried, but he was too late. He won’t be the last.
What does everybody else think? If/when someone tries this experiment for real, would you pay?