Breaking Bad Habits of Meth Dealers and Pirates

By Ashley Mergen (originally posted on Free Enterprise)

Breaking Bad addicts just couldn’t wait for their fix. Within 12 hours of Sunday’s series finale, 500,000 illegal copies of the episode materialized online. At one point, 85,000 people were sharing the same copy of the episode, making big bucks for the website operators who invested nothing into the series.

Sure, Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon all had it available to stream just 24 hours after the finale aired. And, of course, the episode was re-aired on AMC repeatedly and is on the network’s website. And, yes, AMC even offers a handy guide on where to watch the show. But the plethora of legal distribution options couldn’t hold a candle to dealers in digital piracy.

Jeff Baumgartner of Multichannel News pointed out that the pandemic of Breaking Bad piracy was not a case of outdated business models, but of a greater systemic issue online:

Despite widespread availability of online legal versions of the Breaking Bad finale, people were apparently driven to pirate it based on its broad sources of availability, tied in with old habits. Those two factors evidently collided in this instance.

What’s important to keep in mind is that TV/music/movie piracy isn’t, in fact, “sticking it to the man.” These shows and their economic benefits aren’t confined to the Hollywood zip code. Whole economies have sprung up where a single film or series has been shot, and Breaking Bad is no exception.

During filming, AMC spent $60 to $70M on goods, services, and wages for crew members in New Mexico, NOT including actor’s wages. Small businesses, like Albuquerque’s Candy Lady shop that made candy as a crystal meth prop for the show, got a shot in the arm from the show’s production. Even after the show wrapped, Candy Lady owner Debbie Ball has reportedly sold 30,000 bags of the “Breaking Bad Candy” to fans looking to get a sugar high.

Beyond just a single business, Breaking Bad has been nothing but good for Albuquerque tourism, according to the Los Angeles Times:

The production spent an estimated $1 million per episode in Albuquerque, providing an economic boon to many local companies that supplied goods and services and capitalized on the show’s growing fan base, pitching everything from location tours to bath salts that promise to “relax away the Bad.”…

“We’ve had customers from Germany, UK, Philippines, France, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand,” said Jesse Herron, co-owner of ABQ Trolley Co. “We ask them what brings them to Albuquerque and 9 times out of 10 it’s because of the show. It’s crazy.”

Walter White was scary enough. Why would anyone want to indulge in illegal downloads that could support real drug kingpins? Online thieves need to enter a rehab of their own.

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