Must tweet TV: ‘Breaking Bad’ is a breakout hit for Twitter

Aaron Paul, who plays Jesse Pinkman on "Breaking Bad," has become a Twitter all-star by live tweeting episodes.

SAN FRANCISCO -- With the potency of a batch of 99.1% pure blue meth cooked by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, “Breaking Bad” has turned into a breakout hit for Twitter.

The Emmy-winning drama is the most-tweeted-about television show right now with AMC running a “Breaking Bad” marathon, hitting more than 100,000 tweets a day in the run-up to Sunday’s series finale, the social networking service said Friday.

As the end nears, “Breaking Bad” is making sure that fans don’t feel like they are holed up alone in the equivalent of Walter White’s snow-bound New Hampshire cabin.

The cast, crew, writers and directors have been all over Twitter to keep the action crackling there. But the Twitter all-star is Aaron Paul, who plays Jesse Pinkman.


Paul topped 1 million followers on Twitter by live tweeting the East Coast and West Coast airings of the episode “Ozymandias.” He held a Twitter scavenger hunt for tickets to a Breaking Bad screening in his hometown of Boise, Idaho. And he live tweeted the kick off of a “Breaking Bad” marathon that had the show trending on Twitter in the U.S. on the first night.

“We’re sure a big piece of it was because Aaron was live tweeting and that we were promoting the fact that he was live tweeting,” said Linda Schupack, executive vice president of marketing for AMC. “What we are always trying to do is create an event out of our programming.”

Talk about must-tweet TV.

“Breaking Bad” is borrowing a tactic from ABC’s hit drama “Scandal,” about crisis manager Olivia Pope. Last season, Kerry Washington electrified “Scandal” fans, known on Twitter as #gladiators, by recruiting cast members to live tweet every episode.

“The thing about Twitter is that it’s an opportunity for conversation,” Schupack said. “What we love about our shows it that they are absolutely talk worthy. And Twitter is just a terrific tool to foster that conversation.”

Fred Graver, a veteran TV executive, producer and writer who joined Twitter to head up its TV efforts in June 2012, said the flock of cast members, writers and the show interacting with “Breaking Bad” fans demonstrates just how powerful Twitter can be.

Fans are already rehashing themes from favorite shows and dissecting the most recent episodes. So talking back to them can keep fans engaged and heighten interest in a show, he said.

“There is a conversation there. People are incredibly wrapped up in this show,” Graver said. “Twitter is real time and it’s live and it’s conversational, and that’s what pop culture is.”

This week, Twitter was in New York pitching exactly that: its growing ability to build buzz for the fall TV shows.

Like “Breaking Bad” anti-hero Walter White, Twitter is in the “empire business.” And it’s looking to make its own Walt-sized barrels of millions ahead of its highly anticipated initial public stock offering by getting the networks and advertisers to see Twitter not just as free marketing but also as a great venue for advertising.

Twitter is facing intensifying pressure to prove to investors it can grow its advertising revenue now that it has filed paperwork to sell stock to the public as soon as November.

It’s pushing its advertising program Amplify, which allows Twitter to sell ads with TV and other media companies. Twitter announced a new partnership with CBS during the Advertising Week conference in New York.

Part of Twitter’s pitch to networks: It can help get people to tune in.

Media measurement company Nielsen said in a report in August that high volumes of tweets caused “statistically significant” increases in live TV ratings in 29% of the episodes that it studied. Nielsen is rolling out a Twitter ratings service to measure the audience that tweets about a show.

Twitter is a critical tool to connect with audiences, but networks are not yet convinced that tweeting equals viewership. Some shows have proven popular on Twitter but not in the ratings.

“I don’t think we could say that there is a causal relationship,” Schupack said.

Twitter also faces rising competition in the battle to be TV’s second screen. Facebook said earlier this month that it would let some media companies tap into public posts from users on certain topics and glean demographic information.

“Breaking Bad” has proven to be a big hit for Facebook, too. Since the second half of Season 5 began on Aug. 11, 11 million users have already generated more than 23 million interactions, the company said.

“I don’t spend a lot of time looking at what they are doing,” Graver said. “I know they have made these announcements. I know that for us these are great strategies. We are live. We are real time. We have open conversation. There is nothing to keep you from talking to Kerry Washington. I know that’s a great strategy, being public and live. I know that the conversation on Twitter is intense and interesting and fun and our partners do a great job of feeding the timeline and participating in that. I hear these announcements from Facebook and I kind of go, ‘That’s the right strategy and I know that because we have been doing it for a while now. It works for us.’”


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