Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul

AMC wants one final hit! The network has ordered a 16-episode final season of Breaking Bad.

News comes amid speculation that the Emmy-winning drama about a chemistry teacher-turned-meth-manufacturer might move to another network. Sources tell TVGuide.com that AMC closed the deal Sunday.

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Production on all episodes of the final order will commence in early 2012. No premiere date has been set.

Breaking Bad executive producer Vince Gilligan has said that he doesn't see Breaking Bad going on more than five seasons, but at the outset of Season 4, he told TVGuide.com that he envisioned perhaps a longer-than-typical final season.

"I still think we've got one more really good season in us at least, but I think it would be safest to end it after that. Is that a season of 13 episodes, or maybe a couple more than 13? Perhaps," he said. "I think we're definitely more than halfway through our story and maybe three-quarters of the way through [entirely]." 

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AMC has been embroiled in a public battle with the creative forces behind high-profile series The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad in an attempt to cut programming costs. Last month, the network let go of Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont and in recent weeks had been pushing Gillian and Breaking Bad producer Sony Pictures Television to agree to a smaller episodic order for next season (reportedly, six to eight episodes instead of the usual 13.)

Sony is said to have then approached other outlets, including FX, about picking up future seasons of the show, though insiders say a move was unlikely.

In the fourth season of Breaking Bad, Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) have been looking over their shoulders even more than normal after they killed a rival chemist to prevent their own death at the hands of their boss, Gus (Giancarlo Esposito). The season premiered July 17 to 2.6 million viewers.

(Additional reporting by Adam Bryant.)