Page One story: “Race to End for ‘Breaking Bad’ Fans Who Got Behind”

An excerpt from my story in the 9/28/13 edition of The New York Times:

Right now, Kyle Bauer fears “Breaking Bad” spoilers more than a pop quiz in class.

At the University of Pittsburgh, where Mr. Bauer is studying engineering, students cram into his dormitory lounge every Sunday night to watch the latest episode. But not Mr. Bauer, who was, as of Monday, still about 20 episodes behind. That night, he started binge-viewing so that he can be in the lounge for Sunday’s all-important finale — figuring that if he’s not there to see the ending when everyone else does, someone will spoil it for him.

“My friends are telling me it’ll be the best decision of my life,” he said Wednesday night, without even hitting pause during his marathon to talk to a reporter.

In its final season, “Breaking Bad” on AMC has become the It Show on cable television. All over the country, converts to the series about a mild-mannered teacher turned drug lord have set aside schoolwork, dishes and laundry to try to catch up on old episodes through Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and other Internet services.

The hype around hit television show finales has always been intense, but what has happened with “Breaking Bad” exemplifies a twist in the relationship between the parallel universes of live, linear television (the kind symbolized by Comcast and DirecTV) and on-demand TV (as embodied by Netflix).

On-demand services are typically thought to hurt live television viewing. In this case, they are fueling it.

Read the rest…