There’s clearly some synergy between TV and social platforms like Twitter — but what’s big on television is not always what gets the most chatter online.
Unsurprisingly, major events drove the most TV-related tweets and engagement, according to Nielsen analysis of Twitter activity for the 2013-14 TV season. Super Bowl XLVIII on Fox scored as the most social TV event across all program types with 15.3 million people seeing a total of 1.8 billion tweets about the game and halftime show.
The Academy Awards and the Grammys also fared well. ABC’s Oscars telecast generated 1 billion Twitter TV impressions across 13.9 million users, thanks in large part to Ellen DeGeneres’ stunt-selfie that was retweeted 1.1 million times (and briefly knocked Twitter offline). The Grammys and @Pharrell’s giant hat notched 12.8 million unique users.
But for primetime series, the results were not as predictable.
Consider that CBS had five of the top 10 broadcast shows for the 2013-14 season, per Nielsen (“The Big Bang Theory,” “NCIS,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Person of Interest” and “Blue Bloods”) — but none of those were among the top 10 most-tweeted shows.
AMC’s “Breaking Bad” set the record for Twitter reach of a single airing of a primetime show, with 9.1 million people seeing tweets during the finale, and the Bryan Cranston-starrer was No. 1 with an average Twitter audience of 6.0 million.
That was followed by AMC’s “Walking Dead” (5.2 million unique users on average), ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” (4.8 million), ABC’s “The Bachelor” (3.6 million), HBO’s “Game of Thrones” (3.5 million), MTV’s “Teen Wolf” (3.3 million), FX’s “American Horror Story: Coven” (2.8 million), ABC’s “Scandal” (2.4 million), NBC’s “The Voice” (2.3 million) and ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” (2.1 million).
Why is CBS big on TV but not Twitter? Simple demographics explain a lot: CBS still has the oldest audience among broadcasters with a median viewer age of 58. And older people use Twitter less. Just 9% of Americans 50-64 and 5% of those 65 and older used Twitter in 2013, compared to 31% of those 18-29 and 19% of those 30-49 according to Pew Research Center.
Meanwhile, certain shows have been built with Twitter in mind. “The Voice” on NBC set a record for most tweets during a telecast, with 1.92 million posted during the May 13 airing, according to Nielsen. The driver: The show prompted viewers to tweet #VoiceSave to rescue their favorite contestant; the hashtag was included in 1.5 million tweets.
To be sure, there’s not an exact correlation between Twitter activity and TV ratings. But TV networks that ignore Twitter — not to mention Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms — risk losing out on a key opportunity to bring more viewers, especially younger ones, into the fold. A study sponsored by Twitter and Fox found that 92% of Twitter users have taken immediate an action, like tune to live TV or search for a show, after seeing a tweet about a TV show.
Nielsen’s report covered TV-related activity on Twitter from Sept. 1, 2013, through May 25, 2014.