Breaking Bad Finale Viewership Numbers Reveal a Lot About the Future of Television

On Sunday, the Breaking Bad series finale drew viewership totals topping 10.3 million viewers.  This is an incredible jump from the ratings of the very first season 5 years ago, where episodes averaged approximately 1.2 million viewers each.  The reason from this astronomical jump in viewers from the first season to the last season is obvious: word-of-mouth.  Breaking Bad was hyped by many (correctly so), as one of, if not the best, television show of all time.  However, word-of-mouth can only go so far.  To reach an incredible number like 10.3 million, there needs to be an easy way for people to catch up on the show.  And that vehicle came in the form of Netflix.

Breaking Bad became available to stream online with Netflix after the conclusion of season 3.  Ever since then, people have been able to begin catching up on the show whenever they want from the comfort of their homes.  This case leads to an illuminating fact about the future of television: it doesn’t actually lie in television itself, but rather in internet streaming.  These days, technology has advanced to the point where streaming video on the internet is incredibly cheap and easy.  On top of this, with how technology pervades every aspect of our lives these days, people love to have the option to just sit down and watch however much of a television show they’re able to, whenever they want.  Netflix has introduced their own original series that are exclusive to the platform, such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, and has already garnered Emmy nominations for these television series.  The simple fact of the matter is that with the success of these originals, and the increasing popularity of Kickstarter to allow anyone to tackle their own project with enough funding, television is going to see an increasing shift away from shows actually being broadcast on television, and more towards internet content.  Television networks have too many factors–things such as barrier of entry, executives exerting influence, cable costs etc.–to allow it to be a viable option for too much longer.  Viewers are abandoning cable packages at an incredible rate these days, instead opting to use the internet to view their favorite shows (with services such as Amazon Instant Video).  All of these things certainly contribute to sites like Netflix and Amazon becoming the default medium for television content.  The revolution will, in fact, NOT be televised; it’ll be streamed over the internet, instead.

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