Backed by near-unanimous critical praise, incessant social media conversation and intense coverage on every form of talk show, “Breaking Bad” soared to its highest ratings ever — and one of the top ratings of all time for a drama on cable television — in its finale Sunday night on AMC.
The final episode reached 10.3 million viewers in its first airing, at 9 p.m., despite ferocious competition elsewhere on television Sunday night. That was an enormous increase from the show’s previous high, 6.6 million viewers a week ago.
The finale also scored a powerhouse number in the audience that advertisers pay most to reach — in this case a reported cable record of $400,000 for each commercial — with 6.7 million viewers in the audience between 18 and 49 years old.
This performance lifted the talk show that immediately followed it, “Talking Bad,” which featured interviews with the cast and the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan. A total of 4.4 million viewers watched, with 2.7 million in the 18-to-49 group, eclipsing the drama competition on CBS and ABC at that hour.
The only other drama to attract more viewers for its finale was “The Sopranos” on HBO, which totaled 11.9 million. But “The Sopranos” always had big ratings numbers. “Breaking Bad” was truly a late finisher, growing every year, especially over its last 16 episodes, driven largely by so-called binge viewing as fans caught up with the series through streaming on Netflix or by playing DVDs.
“Breaking Bad” achieved this success despite facing a night of series premieres on the broadcast networks and some potent cable competition, including the premiere of Season 3 of “Homeland” on Showtime. That Emmy-winning drama (it won a year ago; “Breaking Bad” won the most recent drama Emmy, last week) opened to its best premiere ratings ever, with 1.9 million viewers.
The new Showtime series that followed, “Masters of Sex,” about the sexologists William Masters and Virginia Johnson, also had a successful opening with 1.4 million viewers, the same total that “Homeland” reached for its premiere two years ago.
“Breaking Bad” easily beat everything on network television Sunday night, with the exception of N.F.L. football. The game on NBC that played against “Breaking Bad” — the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons — attracted over 18 million viewers in preliminary numbers.
Source: New York Times, 9/30/13