For some now, media observers have been commenting on the cross media effect between social and television. Unlike other media, digital has activated television to become stronger. More specifically, Twitter has become a popular destination where fans talk about their favourite TV shows in real-time. Last week Japan broke a world record and sent 143,109 tweets per second during the annual re-airing of the classic animated movie ‘Castle in the Sky’. While this shows the power that Twitter has over viewership, it also indicates that viewers are watching these shows in their first run with its advertising and not a recorded, ad-stripped feed.
Can tweets drive consumers to tune-in to a television show, or are viewers just chatting about shows they’re already watching?
The answer is both. A new independent study by Nielsen provides statistical evidence of a two-way causal influence between broadcast TV tune-in for a program and the Twitter conversation around that program. The study used time series analysis to determine if Twitter activity drives increased tune-in rates for broadcast TV and if broadcast TV tune-in leads to increased Twitter activity. By analysing minute-to-minute trends in Nielsen’s live TV ratings and tweets for 221 broadcast primetime program episodes using Nielsen’s SocialGuide, the study found that live TV ratings had a meaningful impact in related tweets among 48 percent of the episodes sampled. The results also showed that the volume of tweets caused significant changes in live TV ratings among 29 percent of the episodes.
Reality genre most impacted by tweeting
This is the first study to quantify the extent to which higher levels of tweeting may cause additional viewers to tune in to programming. The study also looked at the impact of tweets on TV ratings by programme genre, and found that the influence can differ by genre. Tweets had the greatest impact on programs in the competitive reality genre, influencing ratings changes in nearly half (44 per cent) of episodes. Episodes in the comedy (37 per cent) and sports (28 per cent) genres also saw significant increased tune-in from tweets, while programs in the drama genre were less affected (18 per cent) by tweets during episodes.
“Using time series analysis, we saw a statistically significant causal influence indicating that a spike in TV ratings can increase the volume of tweets, and, conversely, a spike in tweets can increase tune-in. This rigorous, research-based approach provides our clients and the media industry with a better understanding of the interplay between Twitter and broadcast TV viewing,” said Paul Donato, Nielsen’s Chief Research Officer.
The digital world is quite literally changing by the second. While it is fair to say that at present, Twitter is impacting television in a positive way and finding more relevance for itself in the process. But what changes that tomorrow, depends on the next big idea in the social media space.