How Popular TV Shows Impact ASO & App Downloads?

Simon Thillayby 
Head of ASO at AppTweak

7 min read

Last month, growth expert Thomas Petit started a passionate conversation on how TV (and movie) hits can impact the App Store in the wake of The Queen’s Gambit’s considerable success on Netflix across many countries.

ASO Stack Slack screenshotOur team started looking at our various KPIs immediately, but we also asked ourselves if this was the only instance.

1. The Queen’s Gambit leads to increased searches for “chess”

In the month that followed the US release of the show, search popularity for chess-related terms grew rapidly in many countries:

Search popularity history for the keywords Top chess-related keywords grew rapidly in the US, UK, France, and Germany between October 23, 2020, and November 23, 2020.

While “learn chess” is the keyword with the highest search popularity growth in these countries, it’s worth noting that due to the exponential scale of the search popularity given by Apple, the highest increase in traffic was in fact for the term “chess.” For instance, the increase from 63 to 72 in the US means that installs coming from the term “chess” to the app ranking #1 for the term ( have, in fact, grown from 1,186 per day to 3,577. It has more than tripled over just one month, according to our estimates.

Such growth was not limited to a handful of countries. We saw surge in Games category rankings all over the world. It also reached the top positions in the Games – Strategy category in many countries, where we could correlate it with the popularity of Netflix’s show.

World maps of Netflix rankings & iOS game strategy category rankingsLeft: the Queen’s Gambit Netflix rankings across the globe according to Flixpatrol. Right: Average rankings for in the iOS Games – Strategy category (Oct. 23 – Nov 23)

Overall,‘s rankings grew by an average of 26.9 ranks in Games – Strategy (iOS) around the world in the 31 days that followed the US release of The Queen’s Gambit. It secured the #1 spot in 12 different countries on November 23, including France, Poland, Italy, and the UK. Across 94 different countries, the game made it to the top 5 of the category in 35 countries, including Brazil, Israel, the US, Canada, Turkey, Spain, and India.

All these numbers confirmed Thomas’ initial intuition. The Queen’s Gambit had an enormous impact worldwide. It also raised the question of whether other movies and TV shows might have had the same kind of impact on App Store traffic. To understand if this was the case, we measured the possible impact of three recent TV shows: Emily in Paris, The Last Dance, and The Mandalorian.

2. Emily in Paris: Boosting French learning apps

Released only a few weeks before The Queen’s Gambit, Emily in Paris did not receive the same level of acclaim but still encountered a good level of success. It became the most-watched TV show on Netflix in the US, UK, and Germany in October. When it came to searching for potential impact for apps, the show was especially interesting in its potential to affect both language learning apps and travel apps, depending on whether fans of the show would think of starting to learn French or visiting Paris.

iOS search popularity graph for French learning apps' keywordsSearch traffic only rose slightly for “learn french,” while other related terms did not seem to be impacted by the show.

Regarding the first matter, we observed a small increase in search popularity for the keyword “learn French” in the US in the week that followed the show’s release. But the same trend was not observed for the keywords “French” and “french learning app,” which are usually more searched. The same keywords also showed some small movements in the UK, but remained stable in Germany. This indicated that there might have been an impact, although not very substantial.

iOS search popularity graph for Paris related apps' keywordsSearch rose for the word “Paris” in the UK after the show was released on Netflix. 

As for travel interests, the UK was the only country where we saw an increase in traffic for the term “Paris. However, its search popularity remained stable in both Germany and the US, where the show was also popular. This is likely due to travel restrictions in place due to the Covid crisis. It leaves the question of whether there might have been an impact during a more regular year.

3. The Last Dance: Sneaker apps’ surprising boost

The documentary on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls dynasty was released on April 19, 2020, and broadcasted in the US by sports channel ESPN. The streaming rights were also sold to Netflix for foreign audiences. What came as a surprise was how a docuseries about a basketball player did not, in fact, generate traffic towards top basketball apps and games. It instead brought downloads for the network airing it (search popularity for the keyword ESPN increased from around 65 to 73). It also generated downloads for sneakers apps ranking high for the most famous player in basketball history and its famous shoe collection:

iOS search popularity graph for basketball related apps' keywordsSearch traffic increased for “espn,” “jordan,” and “air jordan,” while searches for “nba” and “basketball” remained stable.

Specifically, search popularity for the terms “jordan” and “air jordan” increased respectively from 42 to 48 and 21 to 28. Downloads for the Foot Locker app almost doubled from 2,458 on April 1 (about 2 weeks before the first episode of the docuseries aired) to 4,458 on May 31 (roughly 2 weeks after the last episode airing). Daily downloads from the sole keyword “jordan” increased by 55% alone. In a smaller measure, the Nike SNKRS app also benefited from this effect, with a 25% increase in daily installs from the keyword “air jordan.”

iOS organic keyword installs graph for the Foot Locker appOrganic keyword Installs estimates for Foot Locker. Source: AppTweak All Ranked Keywords Performance.

4. The Mandalorian: New vs. returning shows impact

The first Star Wars live-action TV show was first introduced in November 2019 on the streaming service Disney+. The show recently returned for a Season 2. With two years to study, we observed that the show had a larger impact upon its initial release than its return.

iOS search popularity graph for Star Wars related apps' keywordsSearch traffic for “star wars” grew rapidly in 2019 in the weeks that followed Mandalorian’s release season 1.

In November 2019, search popularity for the keyword “Star Wars” went from the low 61 to 68 in two weeks. It resulted in search downloads doubling between November 1st and 30th for the game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. The game ranked #1 for the term continuously, 68% of which came solely from the term “star wars.” The same effect was not seen in 2020, when the show returned to Disney+ for its Season 2. But we did see a second increase for the keyword “mandalorian” after its surge in search popularity in November 2019.

Last but not least, it’s worth noting that while Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes had not reacted to the release of The Mandalorian back in 2019, in 2020 it did anticipate the new season release by updating its app icon and first screenshot at the end of October. The game might have benefitted from a conversion uplift, as a result.

Creative changes for Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes iOSStar Wars: Galaxy of Heroes updated its most prominent creatives at the end of October.

Conclusion: TV shows impact app store traffic

These different case studies demonstrated unique examples of how TV shows in the last year have influenced app store customers’ search behaviors and how it tied different parts of the digital world together. Nevertheless, the scale of The Queen’s Gambit impact does not appear to have any equal in recent months. It should, therefore, still be regarded as an extraordinary event that is unlikely to be repeated.

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Simon Thillay
by , Head of ASO at AppTweak
Simon is Head of ASO at AppTweak, helping apps boost their visibility and downloads. He's passionate about new technologies, growth organizations, and inline speed skating.