Whenever a big budget movie comes out we see some statistics like first week earning breaks this and that record. So money/earning also became a source of addressing success or failure for that movie. IMDb shows us some stats like budget for the movie, gross earning, net earning.

Though it can't be a measurement for the quality of the movie, but somewhat it gives an idea that yes this is a popular movie. Specially I use this stat sometimes for movies that are not in English. It helps me somehow to have an idea about the popularity of the movie (hit or flop factor).

But for a TV show the above case is not true. The front end audience only gets to know a TV show is on for next season or not (to my knowledge). Earning stats are not that much revealed that even if a show is a hit, it it cut off because of the earning!

So here are a few questions. How is budget calculated, season wise or episode by episode? How is earning or profit calculated? Is there any way to see those stats like for movies in IMDb? And lastly how do TV shows actually earn money? Is it only through advertisement?

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    Nielsen ratings are viewer ratings. TV shows earn money primarily through ad revenue and product placement... There is no "tv box office".
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 8:13
  • I really doubt TV shows ever get advertising revenue. TV shows are rented to the network, and if the network makes their money back through advertising revenue, they buy more seasons of the show. There's no way either a network would give away more money than they have to or that the shows would be given away for nothing but the promise of future advertising revenue. Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 11:04
  • 1
    @CrowTRobot Regardless, ad revenue is at the very least, indirectly related... how much a network will pay for the show is directly related to how much they can sell the ad space during it for... and production of the show can certainly say "you're getting X amount in ad revenue per episode... so we require that you pay at least Y for each episode of the show". Product placement is a form of advertising and the production definitely gets the income for that.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 20:14
  • Thanks to all for their answers. I don't know about those revenue map and sort of things. In my country (NEPAL) tv shows obviously earn by advertisement. I mean they put so many ads in a break of the show that it get your nerves. I think similar is the case of India, they too put a lot of product ads in the shows.
    – user30367
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 3:32

2 Answers 2


TV Stations are constantly updating their 'revenue map' - this is how much money they make at certain times on certain days - it's really just an annual calendar, it has to be annual to take into account seasonal variations (viewing drops in the summer) and special events (Christmas, easter etc.). These figures are actually very easy to compile because they're based on real revenue earned in previous months/quarters/years - they try not to speculate about this. Actual viewing figures are really more used for revenue creation, i.e. ad sales. The Nielsen system in the US is actually one of the least accurate and most costly viewing management figure systems in the world as it only captures a very small sample of viewing data - but it's a well known and understood mechanism and nobody's too keen to replace it because they all know how to manipulate it!

They then commission shows to the budget they can afford for a certain slot, so if it's a 2am Sunday morning show the budget is smaller than say a Saturday 9pm slot. They know they'll get it wrong all the time, a supposed-hit will fail, a smaller show will blow-up - but over the course of a year they balance out and in the absence of a crystal-ball it's the best system available.

In the US, UK and several other countries the broadcasting channels are bound by rules/guidance to publish viewing figures but that's not the case for the online-only companies such as NetFlix, Amazon Prime etc. They get to hold onto their data as they wish and in fact have VERY accurate viewing figures as their playouts are inherently log'able and reportable. I'm the designer of a similar system to these and we get a staggering amount of data back that we can use to understand viewing patterns and this really does help with predicting future viewing figures.

  • Explains a lot. Thanks for your detailed answer. I'll mark it as accepted if no other better answer comes up.
    – AtanuCSE
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 20:11
  • What rules/guidance 'bound' networks to share viewer information?
    – DA.
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 4:50

TV Shows don't actually earn money based on viewership in the sense that a film title does.

The production house earns money by selling the TV show. The networks earn money by selling ads and/or subscriptions.

I believe the only parallel stat with 'opening weekend' type stats for film would be Nielsen (and other) ratings. These are mostly 'best guesses' of course, and not direct measurements that film box-office stats are.

  • You might want to add how those ratings then influence the "income" of the show (i.e. high ratings -> many viewers -> more ad revenue -> profitable show -> more seasons bought, if I'm not entirely wrong).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 16:39
  • @NapoleonWilson the show doesn't earn that money, though. The network does. A higher rating might lead to more money put into future episodes/seasons, but that's an indirect connection.
    – DA.
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 4:49
  • Which is exactly what my comment said, though. But anyway, feel free to add those details into the answer to resolve any unclarities about that financial connection.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 8:26

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