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

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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