‘Breaking Bad’ Creator Credits Illegal Downloads for Popularity

Vince Gilligan, the creator of the Emmy-winning series “Breaking Bad,” told BBC in a recent interview that he attributed the show’s following in part to illegal downloads. The dramatic final episode was downloaded illegally more than 500,000 times in just 12 hours — the show’s most pirated episode, according to Variety. But Gilligan also says those downloads negatively affected the people who worked on the show and earned them less money as a result.

“In some ways the illegal downloading has helped us, certainly, in terms of brand awareness,” Gilligan told BBC. “The downside is a lot of folks who worked on the show would have made more money, myself included, if all those downloads had been legal.”

The AMC series saw steady growth in popularity over the course of five seasons, with the series finale reaching 10.3 million viewers, according to Entertainment Weekly. Compared with the fourth season finale’s viewership of only 1.9 million, that’s a significant increase.

“Other bizzers have openly discussed piracy’s silver lining,” notes Variety. “Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes recently said that illegal downloads of original programming like HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ ultimately lead to more paying subscribers for the premium cabler. ‘Game of Thrones’ is one of the most-pirated TV shows in the world, and ‘that’s better than an Emmy,’ Bewkes said on the company’s second-quarter earnings call.”

Gilligan also credits Netflix for the increased interest in “Breaking Bad.” He told reporters post-Emmys that Netflix kept the show on the air saying without it, “I don’t think our show would have even lasted beyond season two.”

Though Netflix is a boon for business and viewership, Gilligan worries that piracy “will continue to be a problem going forward.”