Breaking Bad's cast and AMC use social media with fans

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

AMC’s Breaking Bad will premiere it’s fifth and final season tonight at 10 p.m. The drama that might be best described as a high school chemistry teacher meets Scarface has received critical acclaim each season, earning star Bryan Cranston three Emmys and costar Aaron Paul one. We attended the movie-style premiere red-carpet last night in San Diego and spoke to the cast about social media and interviewed AMC’s SVP of Digital Media and Content Mac McKean.

Breaking Bad hype has already been translating onto social and digital. On the social good front, talent from the show has used Reddit to raise funds to combat gang violence. Additionally, the network is making sure that Dish subscribers can watch a live stream of the premiere while disputes between the two continue. Last night, we attended the network’s premiere at Comic-Con where we had the chance to interview stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Dean Norris, Jonathan Banks and creator Vince Gilligan about the show and the social web.

Aaron Paul, who was handing out little blue bags of meth-looking candy on the red carpet, told us about why he loves to tweet. “I sometimes tweet out my number in between scenes on set and will run into a different room and tell people they can call me,” he said. “I get calls from all over the world – once this woman from Singapore was crying on the phone asking if I thought my character would be a good father.” Cranston, who has the biggest following on the cast spoke about using Twitter for comedy and what kinds of tweets he dislikes. Norris, Banks and creator Gilligan aren’t on social but see the value in all the feedback. Mitte jokes about being on Twitter and being clueless about using it.

Earlier this week we spoke with McKean about the impressive second screen experience, content and more that AMC has used to extend their best shows across digital and social platforms.

Lost Remote: What’s your social TV/digital strategy for the new launch of Breaking Bad?

Mac McKean: On the strategy front, we’re looking to extend the entertainment experience into the digital realm, to serve the fans. The real basic example of that is season two, Walt Junior, puts up a web page to collect money for Walt. We put that website up and it got a huge amount of traffic. We drove [so much traffic] to the American Cancer Society and it drove so many contributions they actually put up a dedicated page.Then we have stuff with Saul’s website.

This season we’re putting a lot of focus on two-screen viewing and live experiences that accompany the show. We have the feature called Story Sync (above), that we did for Walking Dead last season and it was enormously successful so we decided to do it for Breaking Bad at You can use it on your computer, phone or, tablet. We have optimized versions for each one. It will pop up different things. Breaking Bad is an intricate show and there are all kinds of references from things previously in the show. If you have this viewing experience we’ll point out references. Walt might say something and you can like or dislike, and you can predict how a script situation will come out.

As you’re watching the show, as the scene is happening or just finished, pieces of content pop up. A picture of the scene that it realtes to, a pole, instant replays and then as it’s going into commercial you can rewatch the scene, it’s called “reload.” You can share each piece of content.

[Spoiler Alert]:

With The Walking Dead, when Shane died, we did a yes/no poll. Yes was actually winning and a lot of peopel were tweeting to that poll result because saying, ‘ah can you believe this’. People are reacting and often times that reaction is surprising. Other people are then tweeting, “can you believe this result”?

[For Breaking Bad] We also are doing different infographics, they’re called – “Yeah Science!” when they do these clever scientific schemes, you can break it down. We have the “Mastermind Meter,” when Walt or someone in the show does soething mastermindy. We also have a “Morality Meter,” it’s a show about breaing bad, when the characters are breaking bad so to speak, you can rate the morality.

LR: Why did you decide to do a optimized web app for devices as supposed to a downloadable app?

McKean: We made a conscious decision to make it as accessible as possible. We have an AMC app for iOS and Android. You can access this experience from there, but you can also access directly without downloading the app. You dont need to audio sync. We’ve time synced, [which is] much more difficult than audio syncing but much more accessible and it 100% works, because its synched by time. It’s for the east coast premiere and west coast premiere. We may make it available for future showings, right now those are the two. [On demand] you can go look at the content, you just scroll through it, instead of popping up.

LR: What’s the Go Fring yourself app?

McKean: We launched that in partnership [for Comic-Con] with Sony, the studio for the show. It’s had a very good response, it seems to be quite popular.

LR: AMC’s content (blogs, emails) is very impressive. How did you originally launch them, how did you become Google News ranked and how many resources do you invest in the interviews?

McKean: That’s a very interesting question. One thing we do in that area, we do a lot of cast interviews and we give the fans an opporuntiy to ask. We’re taking questions for Bryan Cranston now. You leave them in the comments and we’ll be doing that for other cast members. Last year we had Hank and Marie’s blogs and this year we’ll also have character blogs.

We have an editorial team and they all have editorial backgrounds, including – the producer of the Breaking Bad site, was originally from Time Magazine, the VP of Digital who works for me [Drew Pissara] has a strong editorial background.

We started our blogs in 2006, with one blog, an AMC blog and then added show blogs, show specific blogs, three or four years ago. We built up a network of writers, what content performs and what people are interested in. We wanted to be the best source of information of our shows, because we are closest, serving the fans. We started with that philosophy, it might be different than some of the other players.

LR: Is that why AMC’s content is Google News ranked?

McKean: We approached it from an editorial viewpoint, it’s news for our shows. We submitted to Google like any other news publication. We had to do some back and forth with them before they would clasify us legitimate news, not just a marketing vehicle and we met those criteria and they then started to index. The fact that we’re highly ranked is not just because of Google, but because were providing value to the internet community.