“Breaking Bad” Fans Flock to Social Media for Series Finale

Sunday’s series finale of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” led to unprecedented social media activity, especially on Twitter and Facebook. While AMC was running a marathon of the Emmy-winning drama leading up to the finale, Twitter experienced more than 100,000 tweets a day, sparked in part by interaction with cast and crew. Additionally, Facebook says that more than 3 million users generated about 5.5 million interactions on its social network during the finale. The activity comes as both social platforms are pursuing television dollars.

The series finale marked a ratings record for the series, drawing 10.3 million viewers. “The finale was Sunday’s biggest TV conversation piece on Twitter,” adds The Wall Street Journal, “generating 1.5 million tweets, about three times more than the NFL match-up up NBC, according to SocialGuide.”

TorrentFreak reports that the finale also saw a record number of pirated downloads: “Just 12 hours after the first copy appeared online more than 500,000 people had already downloaded the show via various torrent sites. Most downloaders come from Australia, followed by the United States and the UK, where thousands of file-sharers prefer unauthorized copies over legal alternatives.”

The creative minds behind the show helped drive Twitter activity, reports The Los Angeles Times: “The cast, crew, writers and directors have been all over Twitter to keep the action crackling there. But the Twitter all-star is Aaron Paul, who plays Jesse Pinkman.”

“Paul topped 1 million followers on Twitter by live tweeting the East Coast and West Coast airings of the episode ‘Ozymandias,'” notes the article. “He held a Twitter scavenger hunt for tickets to a ‘Breaking Bad’ screening in his hometown of Boise, Idaho. And he live tweeted the kick off of a ‘Breaking Bad’ marathon that had the show trending on Twitter in the U.S. on the first night.”

“We’re sure a big piece of it was because Aaron was live tweeting and that we were promoting the fact that he was live tweeting,” said Linda Schupack, EVP of marketing for AMC. “What we are always trying to do is create an event out of our programming.”

Veteran TV exec Fred Graver, who joined Twitter in 2012, suggests the interaction between the show and its fans illustrates the powerful potential of Twitter. While viewers rehash themes and dissect episodes, engaging with the cast only heightens that interest.

“There is a conversation there. People are incredibly wrapped up in this show,” said Graver. “Twitter is real time and it’s live and it’s conversational, and that’s what pop culture is.”

The timing of a big TV-related event is ideal for Twitter, which has been busy promoting its advertising program Amplify and announcing related deals with media companies during the Advertising Week conference in New York.

Meanwhile, CBS News reports that more than 3 million Facebook users discussed the final episode via the platform: “The social network began tracking mentions of the blockbuster show at the start of the fifth season. Since then, over 11 million Facebook users have generated 23 million ‘Breaking Bad’-related interactions — not counting the series finale.”

The social media announcements regarding “Breaking Bad” arrive at a time when both Twitter and Facebook are actively pursuing television dollars. To better compete with Twitter in this regard, Facebook announced this week that it will provide data to ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and a small number of select partners.

“Facebook says it will begin sending weekly reports to America’s four largest television networks, offering a glimpse of how much chatter their shows are generating on the social network,” according to a related article from The Wall Street Journal. “The reports will reveal how many ‘actions’ — likes, comments, or shares — a television episode has inspired on Facebook and how many members participated in an action.”

“The use of social media as a second-screen experience has been on the rise in recent years,” notes CBS. “During the 2012 presidential elections in the United States, Twitter reported that 10.3 million tweets were posted during the first debate. According to a report from Business Insider, about 46 percent of smartphone and 40 percent of tablet owners say they use their device while watching TV.”

For Twitter and Facebook, however, proving the relevance of their social TV activity is about providing concrete evidence for networks and advertisers. “Becoming the go-to hub for real-time events like television shows could draw more user activity and more advertising dollars,” suggests WSJ.