Blog Post

Breaking Bad now online — but only for cable subscribers

If you’ve missed out on the first two episodes of Breaking Bad‘s fourth season, don’t worry: Full-length episodes from the hit AMC (s AMCX) drama have quietly been added to the online video portals of some major pay-TV providers and are now available for streaming online. That is, episodes are available as long as you’re a cable or satellite subscriber.

Viewers can now turn to Comcast’s Xfinity TV (s CMCSA) or Dish Network’s (s DISH) to catch up on the first two episodes of the critically acclaimed AMC show. Comcast and Dish have both confirmed that they will also have future episodes of Breaking Bad available to subscribers the day after the show airs.

Making shows like Breaking Bad available online is part of an industry-wide initiative called TV Everywhere, which enables pay TV subscribers to access on-demand videos for channels that they pay for. In addition to watching through user web browsers, some networks and distributors also make those shows available on mobile and connected device applications.

Time Warner (s TWX) is the biggest proponent of TV Everywhere authentication, and its HBO Go application might be a good example of where the industry may well be headed. The HBO Go website and mobile applications give viewers access to every episode from every HBO original series, as well as movies that the network has rights to.

For a premium network like HBO, which relies on per-subscriber fees and not advertising for the bulk of its revenues, that’s fine. But for ad-based cable networks like AMC, there’s a lot more at stake. While authentication systems are getting better, the reporting and advertising models for streaming video haven’t quite caught up to the traditional TV business. The worry is that viewers might “catch up” on those shows on streaming sites rather than watch as part of the live audience, where networks make a large portion of their revenues.

AMC has long been a supporter of the TV Everywhere vision, as it was one of the first networks to partner with Comcast and others when the initiative was first getting off the ground a few years ago. But in practice, it has largely held back from making full-length content available through the websites of its distribution partners.

That appears to be changing, however. This isn’t the first major AMC show to appear on an authenticated basis: The final three episodes of last season’s hit show The Killing popped up on the Comcast Xfinity TV portal not long after the series ended. That caused us to wonder whether more content from AMC Networks would become available on TV Everywhere sites and mobile apps. (Interestingly enough, those episodes of The Killing have been taken down from the Xfinity site, almost as mysteriously as they appeared.)

Other AMC-owned networks are expanding the amount of content they make available through TV Everywhere as well. The company, which was recently spun out of Cablevision, (s CVC) also owns IFC, the Sundance Channel, WE and Wedding Central. In addition to Breaking Bad, shows like IFC’s Dinner With the Band is now available for subscribers, as well as Sundance Channel’s Iconoclasts and Man Shops Globe.