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'Breaking Bad' finale draws record ratings, illegal download surge

Actor Bryan Cranston (centre) and members of 'Breaking Bad' pose in the press room during the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California on September 22, 2013
Actor Bryan Cranston (centre) and members of 'Breaking Bad' pose in the press room during the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California on September 22, 2013

The final episode of "Breaking Bad" drew the cult US television show's biggest ever ratings with 10.3 million viewers tuning in, figures released Monday showed.

But there were also more than 500,000 illegal downloads of the Sunday night finale of the series, with Australia topping the illicit rankings with nearly 1 in 5 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, television's version of the Oscars.

The long-awaited final episode drew 3.7 million more viewers than the penultimate one a week before, which itself had set the series record at 6.6 million, according to ratings tracker Nielsen cited by industry journal Variety.

The record ratings were less than the biggest season finale of "The Walking Dead" on 12.4 million, but more than twice the biggest audience for advertising drama "Mad Men" which drew 3.5 million for the first show in its fifth series, according to Variety.

The figures pale in comparison with classic TV shows of the past, before the TV and media world became so fragmented in the digital era.

"M.A.S.H.," for example, scored nearly 106 million viewers for its finale in 1983, while "Cheers" drew 80.4 million a decade later and the last episode of "Seinfeld" was watched by 76.3 million people in 1998.

In the current media landscape talent shows regularly get much bigger audiences than that of "Breaking Bad"; "The Voice" got 14.7 million for its latest series debut.

While AMC, the cable channel which broadcasts "Breaking Bad," will be happy with the ratings, they will be less pleased at the number of people who watched the final episode through illicit means.

The show was illegally downloaded more than half a million times within 12 hours of the first illegal copy appearing online, according to online piracy news website TorrentFreak.

Australia had the biggest number of illegal downloads with 18 percent of the total, followed by the United States on 14.5 percent, Britain on 9.3 percent, India on 5.7 percent and Canada 5.1 percent, it reported.

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