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Breaking Fads

Breaking Bad and the role of Twitter and Netflix in its success
Written by

Shaun Woods

The purpose of this essay is to explore the online content and online footprint of AMCs Breaking Bad. Using the Internet as a resource, this essay will discover how fans of the show can interact with extra material. Above all though, the remit of this exploratory research is to learn more

about how TV shows and production companies can tap into the rich vein of fandom using the internet as a tool to net more viewers. When researching the Television Drama market, it is difficult to conduct a thorough examination on current trends or latest news without using the internet; in fact, it could be said that it is nigh-on impossible. Nearly every major show has its own website, online discussion forum, social media platform and/or web-based episodes. It is even potentially more difficult to be a fully informed fan of a major show without having some direct access to the internet or social media. The masses have taken to social networks to share their TV experiences as their favourite shows air ingraining a new and common behaviour in TV viewers everywhere, (Proulx & Shepatin, 2012, p. 29). Adapting to cyber-cultures and life in the Internet is a must for any boding fan of a TV show. For the world of the show can be expanded and explored by budding TV enthusiasts, all in the safety of their own home PC or Internet activated device. This process (of becoming a fan of a show), could almost turn a post-internet fan, into a super-fan; therefore if a fan is an additional market that provides valuable free feedback on market trends and preferences (Fiske 1992, cited in Leverette, et al. 2007, p. 178), then surely a super-fan could almost become a voluntary researcher for the show. Breaking Bad is a six-series American TV serial-drama that is broadcast on the American cable channel AMC. Here in Britain however, the show was first broadcast on the cable/satellite channel FX; after which it was acquired by Channel 5s sister channel, 5USA. But, due to poor ratings, 5USA decided not to acquire subsequent seasons of the show, (Munn, 2012). Of its success in the UK, freelance journalist Ben Dowell, wrote in the Radio Times, Its cult status here is entirely down to fans telling their friends to buy it on DVD box set or, a more recent option, subscribing to the internet streaming service Netflix (Dowell, 2012). The Channel 5 website perfectly describes the show in a poignant sentence, which states, A passionless chemistry teacher learns he has terminal cancer and turns to a life of crime to provide for his wife and disabled son (Channel 5, 2013). Channel 5 further encapsulates the show as being Unstable, Volatile and Dangerous and thats just the chemistry, (Channel 5, 2013). Breaking Bad came to its penultimate conclusion in a season finale on 29th September 2013 broadcast on U.S network AMC, (30th September in UK via. Netflix UK). Through the series run, the Breaking Bad Wiki page, states that the show has been nominated for 58 and has won a total of 28 industry awards since premiering in 2008, (Anon, breakingbad.wikia.com, 2013). AMCTV.com provides potential future viewers with suggested platforms on which Breaking Bad can be viewed; these include Itunes, Netflix, Amazon and XBOX Live. Generally however, viewers can see the show on Encore via AMC, which starts on Friday 27th December 2013. Here in the UK meanwhile, potential viewers are forced to either buy the DVD box-set which costs 49.97 at Asda, or watch online via Netflix UK, which costs 5.99 per month. Breaking Bad hasnt always been as popular as it is now; the show has developed from its humble cult TV status to a popular mainstream critically acclaimed show. Dorothy Pomerantz of Forbes.com states that Breaking Bad averaged 1.3 million viewers per show (over seven days) in the first season, according to Nielsen (Pomerantz, 2013). Whilst Rick Kissell of Variety.com reports, Finale of AMC drama outdraws all other Sunday entertainment series in adults 18-49, following on to say (on the penultimate series finale), was watched by an average audience of 10.3 million (Kissell, 2012). The ample rise of Breaking Bads viewership is clear to see, a steady rise in viewing

figures has propelled the show into the higher echelons of TV royalty; like many of Walt and Jesses customers (lead characters in the show), consumers became hooked on the product.

(Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Episode 2, c. 2007)

Breaking Bads monumental successes are not just owing to its striking storylines, methodical acting and succulent characters. The slow and steady rise in its viewership is indebted to a varied throng of factors; and one of those factors has been argued to be Netflix, the online streaming website. Michael Slovis, Cinematographer for the show from series two, places credit firmly in the corner of modern technology. Another hardware development that helped us tremendously is that all of a sudden you could DVR and Netflix the show. I dont know the numbers, but there was a period of time where Netflix was proud of the fact that more people had seen Breaking Bad on Netflix than on AMC. We build an audience because theyre able to binge view and catch up (St. John, 2013). Vince Gilligan himself, (the series creator) has even come to thank Netflix for its contribution towards the successes of Breaking Bad. Speaking to reporters at the Emmy Awards, Variety reported that Gilligan said, I think Netflix kept us on the air. Not only are we standing up here (with the Emmy), I dont think our show would have even lasted beyond season two (Weisman, 2013). These two clear recognitions toward the online streaming service Netflix; surely offers us an insight into the power of the internet. By and large, whilst Netflix could take a figurative bow and curtsy for its part in Breaking Bads successes, other online platforms have played an intricate part in its success too. Social networks are playing a definitive role within modern TV audiences vieweship; Proulx and Shepatin (2012) suggest that 50 percent of Twitter users discuss the shows they are watching on television. This suggestion takes on a whole new meaning when looking at the celebrity fandom that Breaking Bad has garnered.

A screengrab from Matt Lucas Twitter. (Lucas, 2013)

Whilst Matt Lucas may be writing his Tweet in deft irony, many of his followers (just under 900,000), now share in his viewing experience. Proulx and Shepatin (2012), comment on this behaviour by adding, Twitter has become an integral outlet for TV viewers who are looking to express themselves while watching broadcasts of their favorite[sic] television programs. It is also important to note that this Tweet has been Retweeted 94 times, by either 94 Breaking Bad fans or 94 potential Breaking Bad fans. Breaking Bad itself holds a Twitter presence, the show has its own Twitter account that offers exclusive access to gossip, pictures and information. All of which may have only been previously (before Twitter) accessible to members of the production team. Members of the cast hold Twitter accounts, including Bryan Cranston (@BryanCranston), RJ Mitte (@rjmitte), Aaron Paul (AaronPaul_8), and even Bob Odenkirk (who plays Saul Goodman) owns a twitter account. Many of the production team also own Twitter accounts, allowing them to have direct contact with the fans of the show. Online conversation happens about a given TV show before, during, and after one of its episodes airs. Televisions backchannel, however, is dened as the real-time chat that is happening within social media channels during the time that episode is broadcast. (Proulx & Shepatin, 2012, p. 18). Whilst Twitter is predominantly a social networking tool, Neilson is a global company that deals in measurement and information. In their company statement they state that they are always innovating to keep pace with emerging market trends and the increasingly diverse, demanding and connected customer (Nielson.com, 2013). Nielsen provides audience ratings and audience trends, mostly (but not exclusively) for the American media markets. According to Amol Sharma and Suzanne Vranica of the Wall Street Journal, Nielsen have now partnered with Twitter to provide new details on the number of tweets about TV shows and the size of the audience that sees them. Further in their report (Published in October of this year), it is proclaimed that shows which generate a high number of Twitter activity, often aren't the ones with the highest viewership. The report also highlighted that Breaking Bads finale was: No. 1 in the Twitter TV ratings for the week of Sept. 23, with 9.3 million unique users seeing tweets about the show, and had the sixth-highest

TV rating in the key demographic of 18- to 49-year-old viewers, according to Nielsen (Sharma & Vranica, 2013). This is a clear sign that social networks are playing a key role within the mechanical machine that is TV. AMCtv.com hosts Breaking Bads official online presence. Published on the website, are exclusive interviews with crew and cast, as well as a rich amount of official information, clips and extra material. The website consists of a simple design that allows you to explore the world of Breaking Bad from a different perspective. There are official forums, newsletters, blogs, and videos; there is even an official Breaking Bad game where fans of the show can compete in a trivial quiz on events in the show. The website communicates to a social network site that you must login to, in order to play. The site will then proceed to use your social network profile to post your results on your social network space (and in turn, informing your social network contacts of your knowledge of the show). Weekly podcasts from the shows series are also available for fans to access, and insights which gives the consumer valuable inside information on the weeks events. More exciting than all this however (for me), housed in the interactive section is the cleverly named Name Lab. Early 2013, for weeks on end, I saw pictures of friends names cutely sprinkled within the familiar introductory motif that encapsulates each episode of Breaking Bad. I was green (no pun intended) with envy, I wanted one. I yearned to see which elements in the periodic table would make up my name. However, I felt utterly out-of-the-loop as I had been one of the last fans in the clique, jumping on the bandwagon so to speak I wasnt as much of a fan as them.

A downloadable social media profile picture. AMC Network Entertainment LLC, (2013).

Breaking Bad has much more online content than just Twitter feeds and dedicated website(s). An online Wikia page exists, an information portal where fans work together to create an unofficial online database. The show even has over 240 fan generated fiction stories that either tiein to the world of Breaking Bad, or extend it even further. A dedicated Breaking Bad online store is

open (http://www.breakingbadstore.com), selling items from the show which range from clothes, jewellery, DVDs, posters, and even Better Call Saul business cards. The more artistically talented fans of the show have created a healthy fan-art community whose prime function is to create an assortment of nostalgic and humorous art. A dedicated fan can even purchase Heisenberg (The protagonists alter-ego) branded Blue Meth Sweets. A vibrant cyber-community exists, interconnected and self-sustaining, working together to ensure Breaking Bad lives past its shelf-life. The online community for Breaking Bad appears to have been built almost alongside the evolution of the show. It is apparent that the fan-base has matriculated beside the shows prominence; and the shows proliferation in web-based platforms and mediums, such as Netflix and LoveFilm, have acted as a carrier for these communities. Taking into account Nielsens shift toward social networks, it would be safe to assume that Twitter has become (or is becoming), the new forum for TV gossiping; more or less overtaking the staffroom water-cooler, where people gravitate to gossip about last nights shows. Evidence and statistics would suggest that whilst Breaking Bad is a dramatically exciting show from start-to-finish, social media and online platforms such as Twitter and Netflix, have played a massive part in the shows success. We could safely assume that the Internet, in general, would very much become a staple sidekick for TV, as opposed to being a direct threat to TV. The two mediums are evolving together and technology aside, the social aspect of TV may well be a long standing and prominent feature that the Internet will only fuel. Breaking Bad is a perfect example of how a show can use the resources of the Internet to widen and expand its viewership. Whether or not this was/is a calculated part of AMCs plans, only they will know; but one thing is clear, Breaking Bad and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) have all been forced into the public stream of consciousness; we will, remember his name and we all hailed the king.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Leverette, M. (ed.), L. Ott, B, (ed.) & Louise Buckley, C. (ed.) 2008. Its not TV. Routledge Ltd.

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Available from: http://variety.com/2013/tv/news/breaking-bad-amc-vince-gilligan-credits-netflix-1200660762/ [Accessed 10/12/2013]. Anon. 2013. Breaking Bad List of awards and nominations. [Online] Available from: http://breakingbad.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_awards_and_nominations [Accessed 07/12/2013].

IMAGES
AMC. 2007. Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Episode 2. [Online] Available from: http://www.amctv.com [Accessed 8/12/2013]. AMC Network Entertainment LLC. 2013. Shaun Woods. [Online] Available from: http://www.amctv.com/shows/breaking-bad/name-lab [Accessed 13/12/13].