If you're a Breaking Bad fan living in America you were most likely one of the 5.9 million who reportedly watched the latest episode on AMC on Sunday. Failing that you probably time-shifted it using a DVR, downloaded it on iTunes* or took advantage of the stream that is available for free on AMC's website right now, or maybe you illegally downloaded it. The free stream is up on the AMC website here, but unfortunately because I live in the UK I can't seem to get the embed code for it.
In the past, living in the UK made it a little difficult to keep up to date with Breaking Bad as, bafflingly, no network here broadcasts it. But all the episodes have eventually made it onto Netflix and the discs can easily be bought here or imported sooner from America.
This week Netflix did something a little special though and put up the latest episode of the series on the UK version of the service just a few hours after it aired on AMC. Judging from my personal attempts to play the show it took them six to seven hours to get the episode online.
And Netflix will continue to keep this fast publishing speed up for the remainder of the final series. It was an impressive turnaround but not entirely unprecedented.
Similar turnarounds sometimes happen on regular television channels with networks even reversioning shows for other countries, including subtitling them, within hours of the first airing. In some recent cases networks have even re-voiced live shows 'on-the-fly' for broadcast in other countries. But this was still an impressive and very valuable effort from Netflix and AMC that was appreciated by a lot of UK Breaking Bad fans, including this one.
And it's something that will hopefully become more and more common.
Unfortunately, even with the option to watch the episode promptly in pretty easy and affordable ways, many people still chose to illegally download the latest episode. Torrentfreak reported that it was "well on its way to beat the record of 2,580,000 downloads it set last year" with the most downloads, of the most popular torrent file, coming from Australia.
In Australia the show aired on the pay channel Foxtel – just five hours after it aired in America – but sadly, according to the stats at Torrentfreak, the majority of illegal downloads were happening in Australia.
Next on the list was the United States; then Canada, where it also airs on AMC; then the UK; and in fifth place was The Netherlands. Although I can't seem to find any more info on this, Torrentfreak mention in their report that Breaking Bad actually aired in The Netherlands before it did in America – and on public television.
One must presume that the illegal downloads were fans that wanted to grab a copy for a rewatch but don't own a DVR. Or perhaps wanted a copy to watch on a portable device. Illegally downloading the show in this instance really does seem like a very odd choice to make indeed.
I do honestly believe that many people have already begun to shift from illegally downloading to the legal alternatives that have become available in recent years but news that this show was so heavily downloaded despite the many options on offer is rather depressing.
The next episode of Breaking Bad, called Buried, will air on Sunday. I'll be patiently waiting just the few hours it will take to appear on Netflix and watching it there. Hopefully the more people that do that the more likely Netflix and other companies like them, including television networks, will be inclined to follow a similar pattern with other shows.
*THR have pointed out the many angry iTunes users who bought a season pass for Breaking Bad when it began its run of Season 5 and have only now found out that that only covered the first eight episodes.