Nielsen and Twitter Unveil Social TV Metrics, Showing How Little Tweets Line Up with Ratings

Nielsen and Twitter Unveil Social TV

Nielsen and Twitter have released their first rankings of TV shows, designed to show the reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter.

And one thing is immediately clear: There is practically no overlap between the most-tweeted shows on TV and the highest-rated shows.

Seen through a Twitter lens, the No. 1 television show for the week of Sept. 23 to 29 was AMC’s “Breaking Bad” by a mile, with 9.28 million people seeing tweets about the show’s finale — but the episode wasn’t even among the top 20 in total viewership for the period, according to Nielsen primetime ratings.

To be clear, the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are not intended to demonstrate that a highly tweeted show means it will be correspondingly a highly viewed program. Rather, the metric is designed to show the total Twitter activity relating to specific shows, to help networks and advertisers figure out how to better use the social service to drive awareness and tune-in.

But the divergence between the top shows Americans actually watch on TV and what they talk about on Twitter illustrates that there is not a strong correlation, today, between the two mediums. Only one show, two airings of NBC’s “The Voice,” appear in both top 10 rankings.

Here are the top 10 most-tweeted shows for the week of Sept. 23 to 29, according to the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, ranked by the total unique users on Twitter who are estimated to have seen a tweet related to the show:

1. AMC, “Breaking Bad,” 9.28 million
2. NBC, “The Voice” (Monday), 3.84 million
3. ABC, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (Thursday), 3.40 million
4. ABC, “Dancing with the Stars,” 3.20 million
5. ESPN, “SEC Storied,” 2.93 million
6. ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy,” 2.84 million
7. NBC, “The Voice” (Tuesday), 2.77 million
8. Fox, “Glee,” 2.73 million
9. CBS, “How I Met Your Mother,” 2.55 million
10. Fox, “The X Factor,” 2.09 million

And here are the top 10 shows in primetime for the same period, as measured by Nielsen:

1. NBC, “NFL Football: New England at Atlanta,” 20.49 million
2. CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” (Thursday, 8:31 p.m.), 20.44 million
3. CBS, “NCIS,” 20.02 million
4. CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” (Thursday, 8 p.m.), 18.99 million
5. CBS, “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 16.35 million
6. CBS, “The Crazy Ones,” 15.52 million
7. NBC, “Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick,” 15.26 million
8. NBC, “The Voice” (Monday), 14.98 million
9. NBC, “The Voice” (Tuesday), 14.35 million
10. ESPN, “NFL Football: Oakland at Denver,” 13.92 million

SEE ALSO: Twitter Drives Up TV Ratings for Only 29% of Shows: Nielsen Study

The Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings measure not only “authors” — the number of people tweeting about TV programs — but also the larger audience of people who actually view those tweets. According to the companies, the data shows the Twitter TV audience for an episode is, on average, 50 times larger than the authors who are generating tweets.

The potential value of the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings is that “it provides a pathway for an advertiser to turn audience energy into brand momentum,” according to Graeme Hutton, senior VP of research for ad agency Universal McCann. Specifically, he said, it should be valuable in “developing brand-activation strategies, and highlighting potential new programming areas for brands which may have previously been viewed as outside their comfort zone.”

Twitter, as it leads up to an initial public offering seeking to raise up to $1 billion, is eager to prove that its service is an ideal way for TV nets and advertisers to boost their exposure and build a bigger audience. It has struck deals with CBS, the NFL, ESPN, Fox, Viacom and others for Twitter Amplify, which lets media companies deliver video-based sponsored tweets aimed at enhancing TV programs and ads.

In its IPO filing, Twitter said the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating will “not directly generate revenue” but said, “we believe (it) will enhance our attractiveness to users and advertisers.”

The Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are based on the system developed by startup SocialGuide, which Nielsen and NM Incite acquired last year. The service measures social activity for more than 215 English-language U.S. broadcast and cable networks; Nielsen said it is currently working with Twitter to accurately measure and report Spanish-language networks.

Facebook, which has a total user base more than five times the size of Twitter’s, is playing catch-up to Twitter in trying to provide a similar guide for how social activity on its service relates to TV. Last week, Facebook began sharing weekly data about interactions among U.S. users for about 45 broadcast shows in primetime with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC and a few other partners.

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  1. David says:

    Facebook is at a significant disadvantage compared to the immediacy of Twitter

  2. lionlow says:

    Involved Viewer Ratings (IVR) are transforming the value of programming. This is largely why the old school, obsolete approach of depending on 25,000 households does not measure the multidimensional value of engage viewers. Here’s a good article on the concept and how IVR predicted Sons of Anarchy would be a hit while Nielson indicated it would not.

  3. I think the “Breaking Bad” Ratings vs. twitter should prove how flawed NEILLSON’S is. 9M people tweeted about and only 10M watched it? I highly doubt that – a fraction of the people who use Neilson boxes do not reflect the general public. We have the technology to monitor everyone’s viewing now (DVR’s, set top boxes, etc.) – why not get real stats?

  4. modsuperstar says:

    This is not shocking at all. CBS is all old people shows and very general viewing. While I know I sure tweet during sports, most sports skew older as well. It’s the sedentary set who can barely manage a television remote let alone doing 2 things at once like watching TV and instantly registering response on a smartphone.

  5. … if it’s TOTAL Twitter activity, and not only activity during the show, then I’m not surprised – loads of ppl don’t watch stuff on TV anymore, and yet tweet/comment and what they’ve seen… duh!

  6. This is a stab in the back for those who believe Twitter has a realistically broad demographic of users. No thanks Twitter IPO!

  7. JoeR says:

    It’s been obvious (to me, anyway) that Nielsen ratings have been a shame since the late 1960s at least. For the record, in half a century on this planet, no ratings outfit has ever asked what shows I may be watching. Using less than a fraction of 1% of the U.S. population to determine what shows are being viewed is ludicrous.

  8. jason says:

    You’re going by total viewers and not the demo? Also you did the week before Scandal the show with the hugest twitter following even aired? This should be labelled an opinion piece and not reporting.

    • Eric says:

      I agree with Jason. This is an interesting article, but not surprising results since I think they’re comparing apples with oranges. What they should look at is the typical demo of the average Twitter user and compare that with the same TV audience demo. My guess is the average Twitter user is relatively young, but they’re comparing that to an average overall TV audience that is much older. Not to mention socio-economic differences between Twitter users and TV watchers.

  9. Keith Manning says:

    Are you kidding? “… the top shows Americans actually watch on TV”??!!! The Neilsen ratings are the biggest hoax ever, anywhere. They have NO correlation to what people actually watch and when. They claim to have a mysterious logarithm to extrapolate the viewing patterns of a miniscule number of tracked viewers. Just like the mystery snake oil carnies sold back in the day. It’s a shame that so many really good tv shows have bitten the dust thanks to these fraudsters.

  10. Woody says:

    Do all the research ya want folks. Broadcast is over. Netflix has shown you the future. You’re just the giraffe who’s head has the farthest to fall. Go sell your shit somewhere else.

  11. YOUR TV STEALER says:

    Leave Twitter alone.

    It’snot sacred, but “to better use social media for advertising”? Really? That’s why we watch the shows and tweet. It’s like having a huge viewing party but not having everyone in your house. It’s awesome. Superbowl party for all your favorite shows. Why try and put more ads on there? We already watch the shows.

    Don’t change the formula. The Nielsen ratings aren’t accurate. Cult shows have been canceled because although it’s only doing the numbers, you’re taking away what the people what and not listening. Sucks, but…hey…do what every award show does and count the hashtags related to the show during its viewing and call it a day. You’ll get a couple thousand, hell, even track the poster. But you’ve got the tweeters, and those who DONT tweet so its hard to verify the two and have them together.

  12. Nanny Mo says:

    This is why the Nielsen Ratings don’t work. Networks spend a lot of money on Nielsen but it doesn’t reflect the public. How many times have Networks shut down popular shows based on Nielsen. Twitter here is further proof that Nielsen is not that accurate.

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