New Apple TV and iTunes Play Counts and Last Played Dates

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With the new Apple TV, and the fact that it’s streaming content from a library, there is one change that may affect some users. The previous model was like a living-room iPod, and acted as such: when you played music, then synced the device to your iTunes library, play counts and last played dates would be updated; this was the case even when you loaded a remote library on the old Apple TV. The new Apple TV, however, works more like sharing a library from another copy of iTunes on your network, and does not update these bits of metadata. In a way, this makes sense, but if you like to use playlists that depend on the play count or last played date, this could be a problem.

The solution is relatively simple, as long as you own an iOS device: using the Remote app on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, control your music playback from iTunes, and choose to have it stream to the Apple TV from the Speakers menu. Doing this, it will be iTunes sending music to the Apple TV, rather than the Apple TV sharing music from the iTunes library. It’s actually a bit easier to manage with the Remote app than having to turn on your TV set just to control music playback.

Note that for movies and TV shows, the Apple TV does update the played/unplayed status, so if you stream a TV show from your iTunes library, it’ll be marked as Played on your computer.

Learn more about iTunes 10 in my ebook Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ.

7 replies
  1. rootlesscosmo says:

    I like the new Apple TV’s added capabilities and I like being rid of the Sync business which I never exactly understood. (From what Jobs said when the new one was introduced, I ad a lot of company.)

    But the new one has what seems to me a glitch: when you navigate from the main Apple TV menu > Computers > rootlesscosmo’s library > Music > Playlists, many minutes pass before the list of playlists appears, and this process has to be repeated every time.

    When I talked with an Apple Store employee he pointed me to this thread

    and invited me to join it. Have you had a similar experience? Can you suggest a solution other than waiting for a software update?

    I shudder to think of having to reorganize my iTunes Library from playlists (inside playlist folders, sometimes nested inside one or two larger folders) by Album. My bad, I didn’t read your Take Control; besides repairing this oversight, what should I do now?

  2. rootlesscosmo says:

    Thanks for the tip, but it didn’t work for me. I can control my iTunes library on the Apple TV using the Remote app on my iPhone, but I have to change libraries in Remote if I want to access other Apple TV functions, or switch from the phone to the Apple TV’s dedicated remote. This works, but it’s very kludgy and inconvenient. Or I can use the dedicated remote, navigate to Playlists, wait 2’30″ (by my watch), and then see playlists and folders, but with folder contents displayed at the same hierarchical level as the folders themselves. (For example: BACH CANTATAS “Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein” and the remaining 160-odd cantatas in alpha order.) This ain’t good.

  3. Sean says:

    Your article says that play counts are updated on movies and TV shows after watching but so far, this hasn’t been my experience. Are you talking about they update when the video is streamed from an iTunes library like you described above? Or should watching video through the “Computers” section of my Apple TV cause the play count to be updated?

  4. Jon says:

    Apple must have changed the play-count updating behavior in a recent update to either AppleTV or iTunes. The ATV that I bought last week updates the play counts in iTunes on my Mac Pro properly.

    Right now, for example, I’m looking at the iTunes listings for tracks in an album that I played for the first time yesterday, via the ATV. The “Last Played” column shows 12/20/10 with the proper times, and the play count is 1 for each track.

    I wasn’t even aware that there had been a problem until I found your post while scanning backwards through the blog.

    I don’t use an iPhone or iPod Touch as a remote, but rather a Harmony universal remote programmed with the codes for the Apple remote that came with the ATV.


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