Is social media chatter, opinion and condemnation enough to gain insight into the success rate of a new fall show? Can social media activity make or break a show?
It’s hard to say the TV business knows the answer yet -- it probably never will -- but it is increasingly clear that the more endorsements that trickle through blogs, forums, Facebook and Twitter, the better.
Networked Insights, which works with networks, advertisers and others, has been tapping into that data for months as new pilot pick-ups, star attachments and other information about a show in the R&D pipeline have been announced. The company, which is partly backed by a Goldman Sachs arm and struck a notable deal with MagnaGlobal this week, also took its monitoring up a few gears once shows were announced as part of fall schedules during upfront week.
It's taken its work and offered some recommendations for media buyers on what new shows are “must buys.” It's also advised against buying ad time on others.
To be sure, the data the company has collected so far could be coming from passionate TV fans, which is not representative of the population at large. One hint is some shows have generated considerable excitement because of producers and creators -- not generally on the radar of the average viewer.
Take NBC, where Networked Insights has attached a “must buy” to “Revolution,” the drama about what would happen if life reemerged without electricity. Networks Insights says buzz in favor of producer J.J. Abrams has ebbed a bit, but social media talk indicates interest because of the involvement of Eric Kripke, creator of CW’s “Supernatural.”
In the same vein, NBC comedy “The New Normal” falls under “must buy” in part because “Glee” co-creator Ryan Murphy is a producer. NBC comedy “1600 Penn” has people excited because “Modern Family” executive producer Jason Winer is involved.
Then, there’s an endorsement for Fox midseason comedy “The Goodwin Games” with social media excitement for its co-creators, who are behind the CBS hit “How I Met Your Mother.”
Beyond some of the inside baseball of certain shows, entrenched stars still draw excitement in the social media sphere. At Fox, “must buys” are midseason drama “The Following,” with Kevin Bacon playing an ex-FBI agent who unretired to track down a vicious killer, and the Mindy Kaling-fronted comedy.
At CBS, “Vegas” has been generating some buzz, partly because of the cast, which includes Dennis Quaid and “The Shield” star Michael Chiklis.
At ABC, Networked Insights endorses “666 Park Avenue,” where evidence is fans of FX’s “American Horror Story” could give it a lift. “American Horror Story” also plays a tangential role in Networked Insights “must buy” recommendation for ABC's “Nashville,” where Connie Britton from “Friday Night Lights,” who had a role in the FX series, is a headliner.
On the flip side, Networked Insights suggests media buyers might want to steer clear of comedy “Malibu Country” at ABC, which offers some indication Reba McIntyre’s star may be fading. Networked Insights writes that even with her recording career and role on a WB comedy, “she has a rather lackluster resonance on social (media) and the show’s content is hit and miss with viewers.”
At NBC, former “Friends” star Matthew Perry is set to headline comedy “Go On,” which Networked Insights calls a “possible ‘social turkey.’” “Friends” stars have not found huge success on TV after their blockbuster ended and “Go On’s” theme – about a sportscaster dealing with the loss of his wife who can’t get back on the air until he seeks counseling – has prompted some “viewer disinterest.”
Moving beyond some household names, Networked Insights advises against buying Fox comedy “Ben and Kate,” writing that viewers are "apprehensive towards it and its ‘stupid funny’ style.”
The social media-tracking firm also advises against buying midseason drama “Golden Boy” at CBS, saying “viewers are becoming fatigued with cop dramas.” Social media conversation among young people may indicate that, but cop shows continue to deliver well for CBS.
At CW, Networked Insights gives a “must buy” to “Carrie Diaries,” saying “Gossip Girl” viewers are showing interest more than a crowd of “Sex and the City” devotees. On the negative end, the firm advises against buying ad time on “First Cut," at least based on evidence showing “rookie medical dramas have been some of the least social shows.”
Lots of social conversation or very little. It’s only one piece of insight into whether a show will move from hype – or lack thereof – to hit. But, there’s little question networks' need to monitor Internet discussion and try to influence it will only increase.