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

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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