'Breaking Bad' Bests 'Homeland' in Cable Drama Face-Off

The two cable dramas faced off Sunday evening and drew record ratings.

Bryan Cranston plays Walter White in the series finale of "Breaking Bad."
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There were plenty of fantastic television options Sunday night – which bragged the season premieres of "Homeland," "The Good Wife," and "Eastbound and Down," as well as prime-time NFL. But the most anticipated event was the series finale of "Breaking Bad," which was looking to close its run with record ratings, critical acclaim and an Outstanding Drama win at last week's Emmys.

The finale exceeded expectations – both in viewership and in fan reaction. The episode's initial 9 p.m. finale broadcast attracted a series-high 10.3 million viewers, putting it in the same class of cable series finales as " The Sopranos" (11.9 million) and "Sex and the City" (10.6 million), but no where close to a network hit like "Seinfeld" (76 million). That's also a huge surge from its January 2008 premiere, which drew in 1.41 million viewers. However, to put that into perspective, NBC averaged as estimated 15.35 million viewers throughout the evening for its broadcast of the NFL Patriots-Falcons game.

[READ: 'Homeland' Recap: Saul Throws Carrie Under the Bus]

"Breaking Bad" also dominated social media. According to Nielsen's Social Guide, which tracks TV show mentions on Twitter, "Breaking Bad" was the most Tweeted about show on TV Sunday night, with 1.5 million tweets about "Breaking Bad" throughout the day and half a million during the episode's airtime alone. "Homeland" meanwhile only barely cracked the top 10, when compared to other series that aired in prime time.

In fact some on Twitter were asking why "Homeland" dared to challenge "Breaking Bad" in the first place.

Google trends showed a similar pattern in terms of the two shows' momentum leading into Sunday.

Nevertheless, Showtime is hailing Sunday's "Homeland" premiere a success. It drew in 1.9 million viewers, a record for a premiere night of the show. However it was still down from its series ratings high: the 2.36 million viewers who turned in for the Season 2 finale

"Breaking Bad" was not the only obstacle "Homeland" was facing when it came to kicking off its third season. Its second season drew mixed reviews from critics and it didn't have the boost of an Emmy sweep like it did for last year's premiere. Sunday's episode also leaked online about a month ago.

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