Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings Prove Lesser Watched Shows Have Value

If you watched the Emmy’s over two weeks ago, the bulk of the awards were centered around the most watched shows, including The Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad and Modern Family.  But if you were measuring the most watched shows based on Tweets, the list would have looked quite different.

Scandal on ABC network, for example, topped the list as the most Tweeted about show last week with 3.7 million unique Twitter users, according to Nielsen’s newly released Twitter TV Ratings.  But as far as the highest rated scripted programThe Big Bang Theory was the most watched among adults 18-49 at 6.6 million viewers.

Nielsen

The newly released Twitter TV ratings, which were jointly developed by Twitter and Nielsen, aim to track how much engagement TV shows are getting on Twitter in order to give advertisers and networks key information for making decisions about programming.

It makes sense that Nielsen would try to bridge the gap between social media and television.  After all, Twitter conversation about live TV in the U.S. has grown dramatically over the past two years.  According to SocialGuide, 19 million unique people in the U.S. composed 263 million Tweets about live TV in Q2 2013 alone, a 24 percent year-over-year increase in authors and a 38 percent increase in Tweet volume.

It also makes sense that Twitter, which is preparing to go public, would want the new metrics to prove its value to advertisers and networks in order to attract more ad dollars to its latest offerings such as its TV Ad Targeting.  The newly developed advertising platform is the company’s latest venture into monetization, allowing companies that run television commercials to also run Twitter-based advertisements of their products in conjunction with their nationally-televised advertisements.

But while Tweets about a show may measure its popularity among the under 30-crowd, some shows just lend themselves to being more Tweeted about than others by virtue of their social factor.  Neil Basu, Research Analyst at Latitude, an audience insights research consultancy, believes that  some shows that are heavily Tweeted about typically have certain characteristics for social engagement, such as voting shows and shows with high drama moments that Basu refers to as “happening moments.”  If you look at the top ten most Tweeted about shows, 50 percent of them are voting shows.

But a show that isn’t garnering a lot of Tweets doesn’t necessarily  make that show any less valuable, Basu added.  “After all, there are 78% of American Internet users not on Twitter yet,” he said.

But the American Internet users that are on Twitter may be all that really counts to advertisers.  According to a recent study by Pew, of the 18 percent of Internet users that are on Twitter, 30 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29.  That demographic just happens to be the most valuable to advertisers and networks and the most notoriously difficult to retain, making the Nielsen TV Twitter ratings a valuable tool for brands and advertisers.

The Twitter TV data is also win for die-hard viewers of lesser watched shows because more Tweets mean higher Twitter TV rankings.  In the end, a higher Twitter TV ranking could help boost shows that may have a smaller but more engaged audience, such as The Vampire Diaries, which ranked number 6 on the Twitter TV rankings but didn’t crack the top 20 of total viewership.  These loyal TV followers may also help convince TV networks to spend more ad dollars reaching this key demographic and could help keep their favorite show from getting the ax.

About the author

— Cassie Slane

Cassie Slane is a technology and consumer products expert and appears as an electronics guest on QVC and Philly's Fox 29 Channel. She has been a producer and writer for major media outlets including Bloomberg News, CNBC, and CNN.


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  1. It actually proves nothing of the kind. all it shows is that Twitter usage is entirely uncorrelated to TV viewing (not exactly a surprise since if you’re actually watching a show, you won’t be twitting about it).

    What is sad is to see so many journalists buy the PR spin that this irrelevant data shows that it’s OK to renew flops.

    TV has sunk to new ratings lows each of the last five years precisely because executives have renewed their buddies’ flops.

    This is one more tool for bad shows to remain on TV, which means more reality shows and fewer hours actually programmed.

    You may not have noticed it, but NONE of the networks have programmed a full grid of originals, even on Premiere Week. NBC and FOX have been running multiple instance of competition shows, none of the networks have programmed Saturday (except CBS for one hour with 48Hrs) and most have relied heavily of re-runs (for “sampling” purposes they say but actually they don’t have the money to make enough product after all these years of wasting money on “buzzed-about shows”.

    1. I think you’re right as of this very moment. However, I think that’s something Twitter is hoping it can change, hence why it’s offering these ratings and why it’s offering those TV targeted ads (to make tweets more relevant to TV advertisers).

      1. Thanks for the kind answer Jeff.

        I’m not quite sure how tweets can be made “relevant to TV advertisers”.

        To me it’s just a continuation of the PR nonsense we’ve been hearing for years that 18-49 ratings are the be-all and end-all of ratings when in reality advertisers as a group pay for overall ratings as various advertisers want different groups and in the end it all blends in the wash.

        I’m sure now we’ll hear “nobody watches that show but it’s OK, there’s lots of Tweets” (which of course as Siffy showed is easy to fake).

  2. Their is a big difference between good TV shows and popular TV shows.
    Some time the best written and best acting shows are cancel.
    And what age group watch these show.

    1. It does happen, but this isn’t the problem TV has today. Today TV has a problem of really bad shows that keep getting renewed so that network executives can hide how poorly they’re doing.

      A lot of money is paid to keep awful shows nobody watches (examples New Girl and Mindy Project – but there’s dozens more) and various fake “metrics” are invoked, like when Fringe was renewed because they had a hash-tag on the ever-annoying logo (never mind the best way to build audiences back up would be to kill all logos and jumping on-screen ads).

      As for the age group, it doesn’t matter. Advertisers as a group don’t favor any age group when they buy ads. It’s Hollywood that’s obsessed with ageism and uses it to renew their buddies’ bad shows.

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