The second half of the final season of "Breaking Bad," AMC’s critically acclaimed drama about a high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin, premiered Sunday night in the U.S. The episode aired in the U.K., Australia and several other countries just hours after the U.S. debut, but "Breaking Bad" was still pirated by hundreds of thousands of people on BitTorrent.
Within hours of the first illegal copy of the "Breaking Bad" premiere popping up on the Internet, 80,000 people were sharing the most popular torrent file, according to TorrentFreak. After the first 12 hours, 500,000 people had downloaded "Breaking Bad" illegally. At this rate, the "Breaking Bad" premiere will not only set a new record for the show’s TV ratings, it will also break its own piracy record.
Most the early downloads came from Australia, where "Breaking Bad" airs on Foxtel, a premium TV network. Following were the U.S. and Canada, which claimed 16 percent and 9 percent of the total downloads, respectively.
British fans were able to stream "Breaking Bad" legally just hours after the U.S. premiere, but thousands downloaded on BitTorrent anyway. Roughly 8.5 percent of downloads were from U.K. computers.
The Netherlands claimed fifth place, despite the fact that "Breaking Bad" premiered on public television there.
With so many legal options, what’s up with all the piracy?
TorrentFreak suggests that the problem lies with release delays. With people discussing the shows on social media as they watch, fans who have to wait are left out of the discussion and often come across spoilers.
There is also the issue of fixed time slots for broadcasting. The time simply doesn’t work for a lot of people, which is why on-demand options like Netflix have become so popular.
Some of the piracy is due to cable subscription fees. Some people can’t afford cable or simply don’t want to pay for it. For example, I do not watch enough TV to justify expensive cable fees, and watched the "Breaking Bad" premiere at a friend’s house after catching up on the previous episodes on Netflix.
Still, the efforts of "Breaking Bad’s" producers seem to be paying off. While the premiere will probably become the most-pirated episode of "Breaking Bad," it is still nowhere close to the piracy record set by "Game of Thrones." This has a lot to do with HBO’s lengthy broadcast delays and limited legal options to watch the show.
Last week, however, Time Warner (which owns HBO) CEO Jeff Bewkes said the title of “most pirated show in the world” was an honor. Bewkes even said that it’s “better than an Emmy.” "Game of Thrones" director David Petrarca said the piracy has led to buzz for the show and more paid HBO subscribers, and George R.R. Martin, author of the books "Game of Thrones" is based on, said the piracy was a compliment.
But if "Breaking Bad’s" producers are trying to combat piracy, it looks like their strategy may be paying off. If they could offer the show to all audiences at the same time, or create more on-demand options, it could even further limit illegal downloads.