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Netflix reaches deal to carry Breaking Bad spinoff

Scene from Breaking Bad TV show.

Breaking Bad may be over, but Netflix Inc. has managed to snag the next-best thing.

The streaming entertainment company announced on Monday that it will carry a Breaking Bad spinoff called Better Call Saul starting next year. The hour-long show stars Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, the amoral strip-mall lawyer who became a fan favourite during his time on Breaking Bad.

The deal is a result of a partnership between Netflix and Sony Pictures Television, which co-developed the show with AMC. In some regions, such as Latin America and Europe, episodes of the new show will be available on Netflix a few days after they air in America on AMC, the station that previously aired all five seasons of Breaking Bad. In the U.S. and Canada, the complete first season will be available shortly after AMC airs the finale of season 1.

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AMC is expected to begin airing the show in the second half of 2014.

"Breaking Bad is widely recognized as one of the great TV experiences in this new golden age of television," Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, said in a statement. "It has also proven very popular with Netflix subscribers around the world. This spinoff promises to continue its tradition of powerful storytelling. We are proud to be in business with Sony Pictures Television to bring Saul Goodman to our subscribers around the world."

This isn't the first time a unit of Sony has teamed up with Netflix – earlier this year, the two companies announced that they are working on a psychological thriller to be made available on the streaming service.

But the high-profile nature of the Breaking Bad spinoff represents a coup for Netflix in at least two ways. First, it gives the company the right to run episodes of a brand news and much anticipated TV series just days after the show appears on traditional television – something content owners have been very reluctant to allow in previous years, in part because of fears that such early access to such shows could have a negative impact on subsequent DVD sales.

Second, the collaboration with Sony indicates a thawing of what has at times been a contentious relationship between Netflix and some studios who are weary of the new Internet-based, on-demand model of content consumption. Indeed, Sony has previously been very protective of the digital rights to blockbuster movies such as the James Bond franchise, in part because Sony itself ran a streaming on-demand movie service that could be seen to compete with Netflix.

With the exception of the second-half of the final season, Breaking Bad is already available on Netflix. Besides such big-name TV shows, the company has also invested millions of dollars in creating its own content, including the drama House of Cards and numerous one-off specials, such as stand-up comedy acts. Netflix also recently commissioned a new season of the Fox cult classic Arrested Development, using the show as a means to try new methods of content delivery by making the entire season available at the same time, rather than adding new episodes weekly.

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