Actor Bryan Cranston poses backstage with his awards for outstanding male actor in a drama series for "Breaking Bad" and for outstanding cast in a motion picture for "Argo" at the 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, California January 2 / REUTERS/Adrees Latif

But the show also doubled its TV viewing audience from the first episode of season 5

The second half of Breaking Bad’s final season has been highly anticipated on both sides of Atlantic with US and UK viewers eager to see how the critically-acclaimed show will end. The internet, of course, has responded in the only way it knows how, by torrenting the bejeesus out of the show.

Despite attempts by studio execs to stem piracy by bringing the series to the UK just 24 hours after its US debut, the new episode of Breaking Bad was downloaded more than half a million times in just 12 hours.

TorrentFreak (the equivalent of BitTorrent’s industry newsletter) reported the figures, noting that the show was most popular in Australia (representing 16.1 per cent of downloads), followed by the US (16 per cent) and Canada (9.6 per cent).

The UK took fourth place as a country (8.5 per cent) although London did better in the city league-tables as the second keenest single destination, with 3.5 per cent of all downloads.

Turning these download statistics into a competition may sound unfair to the studios who spend money making these shows, but being a highly torrented show is at least a reliable gauge of how popular your series is.

When commenting on the online and illegal success of Game of Thrones, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes even went as far as to refer to the shows status as the most pirated in the world as “better than an Emmy.”

Bewkes also noted that torrenting helped to spread the popularity of the show, and this certainly seems true of Breaking Bad. The premier episode of the second half of season 5 clocked up 5.9 million viewers – double the viewing figures for the first episode of the first half.

As ever the challenge for TV and movie studios is to work out a model of distribution that is faster and more convenient than illegal downloads, but that still manages to remain profitable for the people who make the shows.

Streaming services like Netflix are helping to provide would-be-piraters with legitimate means of getting their favourite shows, but without instant syndication torrenting will always be an option for those addicted to shows like Breaking Bad.

For those of you that have seen the show (we won’t ask how) check out Tim Walker’s review of the beginning of the end for Walter White.