Ask LH: Do iTunes Downloads Count For TV Ratings?

Ask LH: Do iTunes Downloads Count For TV Ratings?
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, hacks and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Lifehacker Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a fix.

Hey Lifehacker, Is there anywhere that shows purchased download numbers for iTunes episodes (rather than just which are most popular)? Also, do these downloads feed into TV ratings in the US or elsewhere? Thanks, iTunes Viewer

Dear IV,

We’re not aware of an official source for iTunes download numbers for TV — very occasionally a show producer might reveal how many episodes they sold via iTunes, but Apple usually keeps a tight grip on those numbers. The popularity rankings on the iTunes store are as close as you’ll get, and don’t give any indication of the difference between rankings (you have no way of knowing if the #2 show sold one less copy than #1 or 10,000 less copies).

In the same way, iTunes downloads for TV episodes aren’t included in any official ratings calculations. TV ratings in Australia are updated to reflect catch-up viewing when a show is recorded for later watching, but not to include paid-for downloads, via iTunes or any other source. The same applies in the US.

While this might seem odd to viewers who see downloading a series as an alternative to watching it live, commercially it’s entirely logical. TV ratings don’t exist so viewers can find out which shows top the rankings; they exist so that TV networks have a basis for the rates they charge for advertising, while ensuring advertisers have an independent way of verifying that data.

From that point of view, knowing how many people paid for a download of a show is irrelevant, since by definition those viewers aren’t seeing any advertising anyway. Downloads and viewing are, commercially speaking, separate markets, and ratings only matter for the latter.


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.