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The final episode of Breaking Bad, which aired on Sunday in the US, drew the cult show’s highest ratings with 10.3 million viewers tuning in, figures released this week showed.
But there were also more than 500 000 illegal downloads of the series, with Australia topping the illicit rankings with nearly one in five of copies viewed.
The show, about chemistry teacher turned drug lord Walter White, ended its fifth and final season a week after winning the Best Drama award at the Emmys, TV’s version of the Oscars.
The long-awaited final episode drew 3.7m more viewers than the penultimate one a week before, which itself had set the series record at 6.6m, according to ratings tracker Nielsen and cited by industry journal Variety.
The record ratings were less than the highest season finale of The Walking Dead on 12.4m, but more than twice the highest audience for Mad Men which drew 3.5m for the first show in its fifth series, said Variety.
The figures pale in comparison with classic shows of the past, before the TV and media worlds became so fragmented in the digital era.
M.A.S.H., for example, scored nearly 106m viewers for its finale in 1983, while Cheers drew 80.4m a decade later and the last episode of Seinfeld was watched by 76.3m people in 1998.
In today’s media landscape, talent shows regularly get bigger audiences than Breaking Bad; The Voice had 14.7m viewers for its last series debut.
While AMC, the cable channel that broadcasts Breaking Bad, will be happy with the ratings, they’ll be less pleased at the number of people who watched the finale illegally.
The show was pirated more than 500 000 times within 12 hours of the first illegal copy appearing online, according to TorrentFreak.
Australia had the highest number of illegal downloads – 18 percent of the total – the US 14.5 percent, Britain 9.3 percent, India 5.7 percent and Canada 5.1 percent. – Sapa-AFP