Final Update February 16, 2009, 5:30pm PT: now number one.
Updated update: as of 10:15p PT on 2/15 Dollhouse is now #2!
Update: as of 5pm PT on Sunday, February 15, Dollhouse has jumped to the fifth most downloaded show on iTunes.
We always hear about how well shows do on iTunes from fans of shows. No matter the show. It can be a show with very bad ratings that is sure to be cancelled and we'll still hear about the great iTunes rankings. Problem is the iTunes rankings are displayed at a point in time, and even if they weren't they don't really amount to much more than a rounding error compared to traditional television viewing.
Friday night's Battlestar Galatica is ranked higher on iTunes, than the premiere of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse is. But in round numbers, three million more people watched Dollhouse which averaged 4.7 million viewers on TV than BSG which has been pulling about 1.8 million viewers based on live plus same day DVR viewers.
BSG will add another 600,000 or so viewers when a full week's worth of DVR viewing is lumped in, but Dollhouse may add even more than that.
Because of NBC's willingness to post information about iTunes downloads, we know for example that the February 2 premiere of Heroes was downloaded off of iTunes less than 50,000 times in its first five days of availability. Exactly how much less than 50K is hard to say since NBC has lumped its video on-demand, mobile and downloading altogether. I'd guess that the 48,690 figure for the period of 2/2-2/6 represents iTunes almost 100% (from what I gather Netflix to Xbox 360 streaming is not included, but Amazon Unbox is included - I'd still ascribe almost all of it to iTunes). These shows do get downloaded more as time elapses, and you can see from the link above that the volume 3 finale on 12/15/08 had actually been downloaded more than 184,000 time by February 6.
As I peruse the current Top TV Episodes list, Heroes is #53. But when I looked Wednesday morning it was in the top five. Since iTunes won't allow you to specify time frames, there's really not much to be made of it. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is currently number 10 as I write this, and I promise you, even if it shoots to number one on iTunes and stays there, that won't make any difference at all in its renewal prospects, which have gone from awful, to even worse than awful. Friday night's TSCC is currently number 10, ranked higher than Dollhouse even though it was watched by a million fewer viewers.
Yes, Friday night's Battlestar Galactica is currently number one (and it was a frakkin' great episode if you wanted a heavy dose of the Cylon mythology, which I did). Dollhouse is number 19, but for all we know there are literally 18 downloads separating BSG from Dollhouse.
One thing I'd love to know is what percentage of the downloads come from Apple fanboys (and girls) who just felt the Apple fanboy (or girl) compulsion to buy an AppleTV. I'd peg the correlation between people who bought an AppleTV and people who watch Battlestar Galactica at nearly 100%. Now, software like Boxee allows you to watch stuff from Hulu directly via your AppleTV. Apple must hate this somewhat, because FREE on Hulu is $1.99 less than iTunes. Boxee has a Windows version in the works too that will work with Media Center PCs.
Speaking of which, BSG actually cast John Hodgman (who plays the role of "PC" in the Apple Mac advertisments in addition to his role as a correspondent on The Daily Show)" in Friday's Battlestar Galactica and while it was kind of funny and a little cool to see him there, mostly I found it distracting. I kept waiting for "I'm a Mac" to show up. Not only is Battlestar Galactica the show sometimes strange, so is it's treatment on Hulu, which when it comes to BSG advises:
Episodes 13-17 will be posted on Hulu the day after their TV broadcast. Subsequent episodes will be posted 8 days after their original broadcast date.
Friday night was episode 17, and it's on Hulu, so starting next week the remainder of the season will be delayed by 8 days, which is sure to make many o' BSG fan frakkin' damn the gods, before they go download it via Bit Torrent or OK, iTunes, but come on, it's number one on iTunes even when it's freely available on Hulu the next day!
I'm not sure what to make of it. The season 4.5 premiere drew around 2.1 million viewers on TV (live plus same day DVR) and then started hemorrhaging viewers the next couple of episodes before leveling off after the fourth episode. So NBCU/SciFi might not like the hit to the ratings, or they might not love giving something away that a bunch of BSG loving fanatics will pay a couple of bucks for. Either way, there are obviously some cases where NBCU is not completely comfortable with the notion of making shows readily accessible online for free.