Economics of a ‘Breaking Bad’ cliffhanger

Earlier this week Adam Davidson, a financial reporter for The New York Times Magazine and co-founder of Planet Money on NPR, described why the Breaking Bad cliffhanger is great business for AMC, no matter how terrible it is for fans of Walt and Jesse. Hint: The ‘Mad Men’ Economic Miracle was a hassle for Charles Dickens long before it applied to Don Draper.


Cable TV has developed one of the most clever business models in our modern economy. Until recently, AMC was a basic-cable backwater known for “Threes Stooges” marathons. But a few years ago, it tweaked its business and began offering two or three hours of original programming on a few dozen nights a year. Starting with “Mad Men” in 2007, the network landed hit shows that developed small but obsessive followings. Soon after, it began making larger financial demands of the cable and satellite providers, like Comcast and DirectTV, that carry the network. AMC now charges these providers about 40 cents a month for each subscriber, including the millions who will never watch “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad.” These providers can refuse to pay up, but doing so would infuriate legions of vocal viewers. (Last summer, the Dish Network played chicken with AMC and lost.) AMC collects $30 million a month in fees alone on a base of 80 million subscribers, which is pretty good considering that the last episode of “Breaking Bad” had fewer than three million viewers.

[Via NYT Mag]

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