‘Breaking Bad’ Creator Vince Gilligan: Piracy Boosted Show’s Popularity

'Breaking Bad' Creator Vince Gilligan: Piracy

In BBC interview, he also acknowledges economic harm from illegal downloads

Vince Gilligan said illegal downloads of “Breaking Bad” clearly helped the show win new fans — but he also acknowledged the economic harms caused by piracy.

“I see that there’s two sides to this coin, if I’m being honest,” Gilligan said in an interview with the BBC.

“In some ways the illegal downloading has helped us, certainly, in terms of brand awareness,” he said. “The downside is a lot of folks who worked on the show would have made more money, myself included, if all those downloads had been legal.”

After the “Breaking Bad” series finale aired Sept. 29 on AMC, the episode was downloaded more than 500,000 times within 12 hours of the first illegal copy showing up. That made it the show’s most-pirated ep on record, according to piracy news site TorrentFreak.

Piracy is “ultimately a problem and will continue to be a problem going forward,” Gilligan said. “Because we all need to eat. We all need to get paid.”

Other bizzers have openly discussed piracy’s silver lining. Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes recently said that illegal downloads of original programming like HBO’s “Game of Thrones” ultimately lead to more paying subscribers for the premium cabler. “Game of Thrones” is one of the most-pirated TV shows in the world, and “that’s better than an Emmy,” Bewkes said on the company’s second-quarter earnings call.

Meanwhile, Gilligan has also lauded Netflix for sustaining the show. Netflix offered past seasons of “Breaking Bad,” timed to let subscribers catch up before the next run.

“I think Netflix kept us on the air,” he told reporters after the show won the Emmy for best drama last month. “Not only are we standing up here (with the Emmy), I don’t think our show would have even lasted beyond season two.”

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  1. John Jensen says:

    We all live and work in a highly concentrated world of advantage and greed. We all want to profit or get the highest amount of return for ourselves, while paying the least amount to anyone else for goods and services. Ownership of anything including artistic expression is not ultimately enforceable, although many have made the enforcement an art form in and of itself. In the final analysis, monetary return is only sustainable when it is in everyone’s (producer, retailer, consumer) best interest to do so. A concert ticket that costs $100 isn’t fair market value just because the promoter can get that much for it. Finding a fair balance is in everyone’s best interest, except the few that think of only their own interest is all that matters. Ultimately free market will prevail. And that means artistic material including books, movies, records, concerts and live entertainment will find a balance of net value for all stakeholders.

    True artists (not commercial shill-pimps) will find distribution channels not thought of before in the matrix of old school marketing. Power and control of products, goods and services will fail, as it always has throughout history. Fair distribution will eventually win. The big whine right now is that the shill-pimps are not getting enough of their ‘cut’, The artists never did get much of the slice. The Van Gogh’s of this world, slice off their ears for their art, while the shill-pimps take all the money. An artist on an old school record deal got pennies on the dollar of record sales. If they sell their song today for pennies on the net, it is the same money they would have gotten 10 years ago for a record sale. The only one that gets hurt in a nearly free transaction is the shill-pimps.

    No one should feel the least twinge of pain-guilt about cutting out the pimps. And art, by definition, has never been a serious money making proposition anyway. If you are an artist, you do what you do, because that’s who you are. I have been an artist my whole adult life, and I will die flat broke. But I don’t give a rats ass, simply because I got to live a whole life with the freedom to choose to do what I was driven to do, not because or in spite of any monetary drivers. That’s where most artists live. Inside the producing of their art. The external stuff is for the shill-pimps and I don’t care if they make a dime or lose their ass. It is all exploitation of art they couldn’t produce on their own in a hundred years of trying.

    So good night shill-pimp. I never did care about your welfare. You never cared about mine. All you ever wanted to do was exploit what I produced. So I hope your go broke. And that’s the cold hard truth.

  2. wermouth says:

    Piracy is “ultimately a problem and will continue to be a problem going forward,” Gilligan said. “Because we all need to eat. We all need to get paid.”
    Vince Gilligan Net Worth is $15milion I guess he’s struggling big time with putting loaf of bread on the table.

    • Steve Kasian says:

      Your ire is directed at the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Somebody’s net worth has nothing to do with whether or not they deserve to profit from an artistic creation. A vast majority of the most profitable works of art today cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to produce. Far more often than not, it takes such large investments to obtain large returns. Vince took the risks and invested a lot of money… what is wrong with profiting big from those investments?

      The piracy/freedom to share problem boils down to this:

      It is a commonly understood fact that a reasonable expectation cannot be made of people in general that they will not take advantage of opportunities to take (“steal”) something that is of value to them if it is essentially given to them free and clear of any obligations, irregardless of any legal protections there may be in place that might make it illegal for them to do so.

      It is unreasonable to expect that most people would not take a newspaper from a stand, located on a busy downtown street corner, marked “free”, regardless of any markings or statements contained therein establishing that said newspapers were protected by copyright laws, and that all information contained therein was the property of… say, “The New York Times”, etc.

      In the same way, it is completely unreasonable to expect that hundreds of millions of people will not take advantage of opportunities to download copyrighted material for free if said material is of value to them and is easily accessible.

      The remedy for a rampant online piracy problem must be centered on the medium with which copyrighted material is disseminated. The only truly reasonable fix is that media technology must be utilized by copyright holders that makes it impossible or improbable for most people to access their material without having first purchased it.

      The record and movie business is 100% to blame for the rampant piracy problem of today. During the 1990s, while the Internet was rapidly expanding along with digital technology fast on it’s heels, companies and organizations rested on their laurels and lined their deep pockets with trillions of dollars while reinvesting absolutely nothing into research and development of new media technologies that could thwart digital internet based piracy. Every member of the MPAA and the RIAA should long ago have sued those organizations, as well as respective members of other artistic organizations world wide, for failing to protect the interests of both their members and their respective industries in general. Artists and the production and distribution companies which market their works are going after the wrong perpetrators. Meanwhile, the very associations and organizations who committed such egregious dereliction of duty in failing to look out for the best interests of their members are the very companies spearheading the effort to deflect and redirect the focus of their members on the pirates themselves, in order that they may avoid having to admit their own culpability in all of this.

      In mass internet piracy, the fault for losses from such lies squarely with each industry upon which such losses have been inflicted. But in this progressive age of obamanomics and unfettered government and corporate corruption, personal responsibility is passe and cannot be considered; It is unreasonable. After all, it wasn’t their fault they made bad business choices which directly resulted in massive industry-wide losses.

      So you see, it’s not at all about the haves v. the have nots; nor is it all about the “human right” we all [should] have to freely take whatever we want to take, so long as it is digital in nature and is taken via the interwebs. It’s about a group of industries illegally prosecuting people for having given in to their normal, reasonable human nature – and a completely unreasonable expectation being placed upon normal, reasonable people that they not give in to what is factually know to be common human nature.

  3. izzymtl says:

    It could be the case that people who own AMC just find it easier to download an torrent versus pvr’ing the show. I doubt that these downloads would have resulted in increase sales.

  4. Dave Smith says:

    “After the “Breaking Bad” series finale aired Sept. 29 on AMC, the episode was downloaded more than 500,000 times within 12 hours of the first illegal copy showing up.”

    Note that this says AFTER the finale aired. The finale episode has been widely hailed as one of the best series close-outs. How many of these “pirated” downloads were people who had actually watched the final episode live, but thought it was so good they wanted to watch it again?

    • Nellie says:

      Sorry to sound rude, but do you even know how pirating works?

      A show has to be aired before it can go on the internet, simple as that. Therefore yes, it was pirated after showing on tv,

  5. I think piracy has to be embraced as a sign of a show’s popularity and hey, regarding some merchandising practices, torrenters can even be considered viewers (it doesn’t matter how you got your hands on an episode, you still saw that Walt’s car was a Porsche).

    All said, I’ll miss this series – but all good things come to an end exactly when they should.I wrote a review of it, check it out! http://www.flatlineblog.com/regrets-and-mistakes/

  6. SD says:

    I have to disagree with this. A lot of people who download are people who watch the shows overseas like India and Sri Lanka. I dont think Game of Thrones will EVER be allowed on Indian television but had a cult following back there. Also many shows are a few seasons out of date. I dont understand why the producers crib because without torrent access many would not see it at all.

    • This! For Game of Thrones in the UK the only way to get it is through Sky using a skybox and a ridiculously expensive monthly fee (around £35 a month). I don’t own a TV, don’t want a skybox or any of the hassle and bullshit that it comes with. I just want to stream the program on my laptop at anytime. Give me a way to buy that and I buy it.

  7. Morbane says:

    The assumption that “illegal” downloads are lost sales simply isn’t the case. I really don’t want the hassle of downloading shows, that kind of quota isn’t cheap, the quality is all over the place, there’s format issues, and it’s just time consuming.

    Here’s my story… Some friends with Foxtel told me about Breaking Bad, sounded okay but the premise didn’t sound like my thing & it was already two seasons in. Then my cousin told me about it again & sent me a torrent link. I loved the first few eps. Rushed out & bought the season 1 dvd. Season three was starting on Foxtel before season 2 was being released. So I downloaded season 2 torrents to catch up. I recorded season 3 on Foxtel IQ. Loved it! Season 4 on Foxtel was delayed, huge spoilers every where I turned. Id paid for Foxtel, but turned to torrents again. Season 5 was fast tracked, great I could watch it the same day as my friends & I had a convenient high quality copy – perfect! The final season was the same. I’ve since bought season 2-5 on DVD to rewatch.

    I’ve effectively paid for Breaking Bad three or more times. I paid iiNet for my huge quota & fast internet, I paid indirectly through google ads on torrent sites, I had a platinum Foxtel subscription throughout the on-air period, and I later bought the DVD. So while I appreciate the work that Vince & co put into shows like Breaking Bad, they can go f&$k themselves when they bitch about not getting my money – because I’m the average user experience & Im one of the guys actively promoting how great the show is to anyone that will listen!

  8. Matt Maldre says:

    Sharing is the new economy.

    • one4u2cee says:

      Wow, so your complaining about spending money to download a show because your to lazy to record it from TV for free, and then you`re taking credit for being part of the group who`ve made it more popular ? In the article I believe Gilligan was giving credit to the people who`ve been pirating the show and as a side note, also saying it was a revenue stream loss more for the production staff than himself. If it were a huge profit loss for him and others like him who make the initial investments, then he probably would have focused more on that aspect. In his defense, I think we all would like to make as much profit as possible on our investments because we never know if another opportunity like it will come along. Certainly 15 million is a lot of money, but you have to consider what that actually breaks down to after everything he risked up front along with the thousands of hours invested in production of a show he didn`t know would become so successful.

  9. FrankM says:

    Hmmm, no mention of the legal downloads trying to screw over customers that paid for “season passes” trying to pass off the 2nd half of the fifth season as “the final season”, a different product that requires another purchase.

    If you want legal downloads to succeed, you have to treat your customers better.

  10. Philip Wade says:

    I started watching Breaking Bad by watching pirated episodes, I eventually went on to purchase episodes of the series. Which I guess is a testament to how much I love the show. I don’t do that with a lot of shows that were on the air.

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