Facebook prepares data reports for TV networks to compete with Nielsen-Twitter partnership

30 Sep 2013

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Social media giant Facebook will start issuing weekly reports to US television networks detailing the amount of chatter their shows are generating across its online community.

The four largest TV networks in the US – ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS – as well as a small number of selected partners will receive these reports, according to The Wall Street Journal Digits Blog.

The data will let these broadcasters know how many status updates, likes, comments and shares were prompted by their shows and what this meant for their reach on Facebook.

This idea was likely on the cards for some time at Facebook, but may well have been spurred on to faster action by the arrival of the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating. Due for its first release today, this report stems from a partnership between Twitter and media analytics firm Nielsen and will track tweets about a particular show and what size audience they reached. Early data shows that about 50 people will see any one tweet about a TV show.

This information can be valuable to broadcasters and Twitter has managed to set this rating in motion ahead of its upcoming IPO. At the time it was first announced, late last year, Nielsen’s president of global media products and advertiser solutions Steve Hasker said, “As a media measurement leader, we recognise that Twitter is the pre-eminent source of real-time television engagement data.”

Public vs private

Nielsen’s validation of Twitter is a slight for Facebook, which boasts a 1bn-strong network. Facebook’s problem is also one of its selling points: with detailed true-to-life profiles, the network can provide crucial data representative of a wide set of demographics; however, many of its users prefer to keep this information, and their posts, private. With Twitter, on the other hand, the majority of accounts and tweets are public.

Facebook can only give information from public posts and conversations, though its total figures will count private conversations using anonymised data.

That said, the head of Facebook’s measurement team Daniel Slotwiner is confident that Facebook’s data has its strengths. “The conversation is being generated by a group that is much more representative of the general population – that means we should have a better signal as it relates to ratings,” he said.

Facebook tracks a set of selected keywords related to a show while a team verifies that these posts and comments are in fact about the selected show and not a mere coincidence of letters.

As multi-screen viewing becomes more and more common, both these networks will compete to be seen as the dominant source of real-time online conversation. Nielsen, however, already has plans to track ratings beyond Twitter and, by the time the autumn 2014 TV season rolls around, intends to have added data from viewing on tablets and smartphones to its analysis.

Social networking image via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.