September 30, 2013 11:10am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: 'Breaking Bad' Finale Smashes Records With 10.3 Million Viewers
The finale of Breaking Bad made good on two months of surging ratings, wrapping its five-season run on Sunday night with another record.
An extended 75-minute episode of the AMC drama averaged 10.3 million viewers during its original 9 p.m. broadcast. That's up from last week's 6.6 million viewers and the fourth record audience brought in during the final eight episodes. The finale is only outranked by The Walking Dead as AMC's most watched original broadcast to date.
Despite the critical mass of attention for the Emmy winner's swan song, Breaking Bad was up against its biggest competition of the season. The episode aired head-to-head against Sunday Night Football, scripted premieres on the Big Four and the return of Showtime's Homeland.
Football aside, Breaking Bad is on track to be Sunday's strongest performer in the targeted adults 18-49 demographic. The show brought in 6.7 million viewers in the advertiser-friendly age group. That's up 300 percent from last year's conclusion to the first half of season five, even trumping the previous series record of 6.6 million total viewers.
PHOTOS: Exclusive Portraits of Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul
Breaking Bad premiered on Jan. 20, 2008, to a modest 1.41 million viewers. The show only cracked the 2 million mark on one occasion during the first four seasons, but critical acclaim and a streaming deal with Netflix saw more and more viewers get turned on to the drama.
The first part of the fifth and final season returned to a then record of 2.93 million viewers in July 2012. Little more than a year later, that number nearly doubled when the recent Aug. 11 return saw a surge to 5.92 million.
Each of the final four episodes set new records, with the show first topping 6 million on Sept. 15 when it resolved a much-talked-about cliffhanger.
Companion series Talking Bad went out on its own high note, averaging 4.4 million viewers and 2.9 million adults 18-49.