Breaking Bad Sparks Global Piracy Craze

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Yesterday evening the second part of Breaking Bad's fifth and final season premiered in the U.S. Within hours of airing the show became available in the UK, Australia and several other countries, but despite these legal options hundreds of thousands of people decide to pirate it via BitTorrent instead. Are these people simply too cheap to pay, or are there other factors that can explain this piracy craze?

bbTV studios should get rid of release delays, and air their shows “instantly” in every country imaginable.

For years the above argument has been used in response to ever-increasing piracy rates. However, the start of Breaking Bad’s second half of the fifth and final season shows that mere availability is not always good enough.

Just a few hours after the first unauthorized copy of Breaking Bad appeared online, 80,000 people were sharing the episode simultaneously through the most popular torrent file. After 12 hours, half a million people had already grabbed a copy via BitTorrent, and this number is increasing rapidly.

From the looks of it, Breaking Bad is well on its way to beat the record of 2,580,000 downloads it set last year.


Data gathered by TorrentFreak throughout the day reveals that most early downloaders, a massive 16.1%, come from Australia. Down Under the show aired on the pay TV network Foxtel, but it appears that many Aussies prefer to download a copy instead.

The same is true for the United States and Canada, with 16% and 9.6% of the total downloads respectively, despite the legal offerings.

In the UK, Netflix subscribers could stream the latest episode a few hours after the U.S. premiere. However, tens of thousands preferred to download a copy via BitTorrent, good for 8.5% of all downloads.

The Netherlands, where Breaking Bad actually premiered on public television several hours before the U.S. release, takes fifth place in the country rankings, followed by Poland, Spain, Brazil, India and Sweden.

sample N=4,014
# Country % City %
1 Australia 16.1% Melbourne 4.8%
2 United States 16.0% London 3.5%
3 Canada 9.6% Sydney 2.9%
4 United Kingdom 8.5% Perth 1.9%
5 The Netherlands 2.8% Athens 1.5%
6 Poland 2.7% Madrid 1.4%
7 Spain 2.5% Warsaw 1.4%
8 Brazil 2.5% Brisbane 1.2%
9 India 2.0% Soa Paulo 1.2%
10 Sweden 1.9% Adelaide 1.2%

Breaking Bad’s latest download figures make the show one of the most pirated in 2013 thus far. Nevertheless, it doesn’t come close to the record set by Game of Thrones, which became the most pirated TV-show of the spring season with 5.2 million downloads.

While one might think that the people connected to Game of Thrones are outraged by this mass piracy, the opposite appears to be true according to several insiders.

Game of Thrones director David Petrarca previously said he believes that the buzz created by pirates eventually leads to more paying subscribers, and last week Time Warner CEO Jess Bewkes said that it’s better than winning an Emmy.

“Our experience is that it leads to more paying subscribers. I think you’re right that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world. That’s better than an Emmy,” Bewkes said.

In other words, Breaking Bad fans have to step up if they want the show to capture the most prestigious TV award of the year. An almost impossible task, but with seven episodes to go the race is still open.


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