‘Breaking Bad’ finale sets ratings records

“Breaking Bad” went out with several bangs, story-wise (which I discussed in my review of the series finale), and some even bigger ones, business-wise, as the last episode drew a record 10.3 million viewers and more than tripled the demographic rating of last summer’s finale.

The episode averaged 10.3 million viewers overall, and 6.7 million viewers aged 18-49. The concluding installment of “Talking Bad” – which traded places for the night with the underperforming “Low Winter Sun” – followed with 4.4 million viewers, 2.9 million of them in the demo.

This ratings growth at the end of a series that for a long time was a boutique success at best for AMC – remember how the channel played hardball with Sony and Vince Gilligan about how many episodes they would pay for in a final season? – is amazing, a perfect storm of changing technologies and the right show to benefit from it. At the Emmys last week, Gilligan thanked Netflix for helping to keep the show on the air, and the streaming video service – along with AMC’s frequent reruns (including a marathon of the entire series that started last Wednesday), its On Demand service, DVDs, Blu-rays, etc. – provided a tangible, easily accessible outlet for latecomers who had heard the raves from their friends. And where previous seasons had grown slightly in the ratings thanks to that Netflix/etc. bump, this year presumably brought in everyone who had been catching up the whole time, and who didn’t want to have the final season (and this final episode in particular) spoiled for them.

So while it’s easy to look at these giant ratings and say AMC should have just given Gilligan more seasons and/or episodes, it’s possible that this huge crowd wouldn’t have showed up until whenever the last season wound up being.

As AMC president Charlie Collier said in a statement about the ratings, “We tip our Heisenberg hat to the fans who made this a truly shared experience.”

I’m curious what your specific viewing experience has been with the show. Obviously, some of you have been there from the start, or jumped in at seasons 2 or 3, but have any of you been watching via Netflix or other home video options and chose this as the year you had to watch it live?