Who knew a TV show needs 140 characters to succeed? Twitter’s changing the game

9 Mar 2015

Microblogging site Twitter may now be determining what TV shows get picked up and which fail.

According to a report from research agency Nielsen, TV shows that garner the most activity on Twitter have a direct correlation to shows that capture our attention most.

This means pilot season, when swathes of new TV shows are splashed across our screens in the hopes of taking off, may now be determined by social media as much as viewership numbers.

By putting sensors on 300 people and making them watch episodes of TV shows they already like, Nielsen established a link between viewers’ emotional attachment towards what they see and the spike in Twitter activity amongst the general population when discussing the shows online.

Predict engagement

“You can use the Twitter activity to predict the engagement of the show,” said Nielsen’s Avgusta Shestyuk in The New York Times. “As the audiences are getting more engaged with the segment, the Twitter activity is getting more intense.”

For this research, the 300 participants couldn’t tweet, but when comparing their brain readings with Twitter activity when the episodes actually aired in the wild, there was a 79.5pc correlation between the level of activity on Twitter and the viewers’ neurological engagement with the show.

Nielsen has set up a dedicated TV monitoring Twitter hub, @NielsenSocial, which posts findings on which shows reached a bigger audience on Twitter, and it seems to be catching on to something.

In fact, Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary show in February, which actively partnered with Twitter, showed evidence of the strength of social media when promoting shows.

Research in January by Nielsen found that, when adding Twitter activity to promotional spend, it’s quite clear what is taking off and what is not.

“Our current and recent research efforts increasingly indicate that Twitter TV activity and reach data can help networks and agencies make superior, data-driven advertising and program marketing decisions,” said the company at the start of the year, after monitoring the August pilot season.

Watching TV while on a smartphone via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic