$75 million for three episodes of television.
That was Dreamworks Animation Skg Inc (NASDAQ:DWA) CEO Jeffery Katzenberg's offer for Breaking Bad to produce three additional episodes beyond the finale.
With even the series finale-which was watched by over 10 million viewers-bringing in less than $10 million in advertising revenue, the economics of Katzenberg's offer make little sense on the surface.
Katzenberg's vision instead was to cut 180 minutes of Breaking Bad programming into 30 six minute episodes over a month. Each episode would cost $0.50 to $0.99 (it's unclear whether that's the cost of each full episode or mini-episode, but at the cost Katzenberg was willing to pay, you'd have to assume it was per six minute episode).
The plan never came to fruition, as Katzenberg devised it without knowledge of Breaking Bad's creative plans. After the series finale, there is little need for the tale of Breaking Bad to continue, even if Katzenberg was willing to throw piles of money at series creator Vince Gilligan.
Yet, Katzenberg's conviction in going to an alternate route of distribution for a hit television show is intriguing in its unconventionality alone. With Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) already pulling some of this year's best TV shows off cable, could the next shift away from conventional cable TV be high-quality short-form TV shows that cost small sums?
The idea of widespread digital buying of television shows isn't new, nor does it lack a platform. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)'s iTunes has a dominant share of digital entertainment spending.
What's different about Katzenberg's plan is to bring back the length. Movies might cost $15 for 90 minutes of entertainment. A television show costs $3 for 20 minutes. So, could a shorter form of entertainment fill the low-end and sell for a $1 fot 6 or 7 minutes?
The problem is that cutting up Breaking Bad would be more of a gimmick. Plot lines wouldn't be resolved over 6 or 7 minutes per segment. The series has built a die-hard group of followers who would buy the show in segments, but they would also likely buy a pack of 3 full-length episodes for the same price (if not more) than they paid for all the segments.
The only added feature would be the inconvenience that Katzenberg said he planned on releasing the 6 minute segments over a month, with each break doing a disservice to the tension the show is so good at creating. Likewise, no viewers would buy just a few random segments, it would be an all-or-nothing proposition.
In short, the idea might work because Breaking Bad has built up such a tremendous following, but it wouldn't necessarily prove a market for paid short-term entertainment.
DreamWorks moving from cable TV
It's important to remember that Katzenberg's remarks come at a meeting of television executives. With his $75 million offer never seriously considered, this could be more a "good story" to get attention for digital media in general, of which Katzenberg has a strong rooting interest.