Piracy Probably Helped ‘Breaking Bad,’ Creator Vince Gilligan Says

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bill-swift - October 19, 2013

Look, we all know that video piracy is bad in theory. If you don't pay for something, the people who made it don't get paid. It's pretty simple.

Then again, it's not. What if the show or film pirated is something people probably weren't going to pay for anyway, but they took a chance on it because it was free and discovered that they fucking love that shit? Well, I'll tell you what: for that show or film in question, piracy is good. It gets virtual butts in the virtual seats and helps create an audience that, under the right circumstances, might be willing to pay for the product.

This is the dirty little secret about video piracy. Quite often it's a problem, but sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's a solution, and sometimes people within the industry have the cajones to admit it.

Enter Vince Gilligan, creator of a little show you may have heard of called Breaking Bad. In a recent interview with the BBC, Gilligan was refreshingly honest about the two-sided nature of video piracy:

I see that there's two sides to this coin, if I'm being honest. In some ways the illegal downloading has helped us, certainly, in terms of brand awareness. The downside is a lot of folks who worked on the show would have made more money, myself included, if all those downloads had been legal.

What he's basically saying here is that piracy helped create an audience for Breaking Bad that basic cable could not. Then that audience flocked to basic cable and Netflix—paid services—to watch the show. And then it made a bunch of money.

The lesson here? It's not that piracy is good and you should do it. It's that the people who make films and television shows need to stop pretending the issue is black and white and figure out how to adapt to the habits of consumers. That's how they're going to make money.


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