The guys over at TorrentFreak
have done some preliminary analysis of the torrenting activity around Breaking Bad's season finale and final episode of the series. Nobody will dispute Breaking Bad's popularity, especially when you consider how many people have been torrenting it and pirating it via other methods. Since the guys at TorrentFreak are pretty well connected into the Torrenting community, they were able to gather the data from various public and private Torrenting sites. Based on their data, they were able to determine that over 500,000 users had snatched the finale in the first twelve hours of the episode being online. Keep in mind, I saw the first torrents go live online within minutes of the episode airing on AMC on the east coast of the US.
So, within 12 hours of the episode ending over 500,000 people had snatched the finale. This is the most of any TV show, ever. Especially in such a short time frame. Looking at my own private trackers, I can see that just one site alone accounts for about 15,000 of those downloads. Also, keep in mind that lots of people will also stream this episode online rather than Torrenting the episode and possibly risking a virus or some sort of illegal action for piracy. After all, you can't be penalized for streaming a video, only for downloading and re-sharing, via a Torrent.
Torrentfreak also did an analysis of the users that downloaded the episode the most and they found that Australia was the biggest downloader of Breaking Bad's final episode, followed closely by the US and the UK.
At the peak, more than 85,000 people were sharing a single version of the Breaking Bad finale via a public BitTorrent tracker. Combining the four most popular files of this Breaking Bad episode, Torrentfreak was able to conclude that over 190,000 downloads were generated from only four files being shared by tens of thousands. While these are record numbers for Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones still takes the crown for the largest BitTorrent swarm ever recorded with more than 170,000 people sharing a single copy.
All of this torrenting simply tells the studios and content distributors what content is in demand. Many of the content creators and distributors try to fight piracy tooth and nail, but fail to recognize that the existence of piracy is purely due to the lack of content availability. With things like Netflix and HBO Go there has been a vast decrease of piracy, and the more shows show up on Netflix, the less piracy there is of that show. From my personal experience, people generally prefer legal alternatives rather than piracy, but when they're not available or cost prohibitive, people simply go for the easiest option, piracy. The studios and content distributors can fight piracy all they want, but the truth is that people will always find ways around DRM and the best thing to do is just make it incredibly easy for them to access the content.
It'll be interesting to see how Game of Thrones will do when they eventually reach their finale, if they ever do. Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad have both had very strong followings and their ratings and awards as well as downloads reflect that popularity. Hopefully more companies will take notice of this trend and make content more easily available rather than locking it down more.
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