What Do Nielsen's Twitter TV Ratings Tell Us About Certain Shows?

by , Oct 29, 2013, 7:56 PM
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Who can really say whether Twitter activity tied to a specific program or network has any true value to anyone? How do we know the context in which tweets are tweeted? How many people tweet without taking the time to include specific hashtags for measurement reference? Is the sending of one or two tweets during a 30- or 60- or 120-minute program indicative of the level of engagement the sender may or may not have with the program itself? Is the tweeter a repeat viewer, or just passing through? Do re-tweets carry any weight in this equation, given that re-tweeting can simply be a reflex of sorts and that a person re-tweeting a tweet about a program may not even be watching it? Are there a number of times a writer can use the word tweet in a paragraph without sounding ridiculous?

These are just a few of the questions that came to mind this morning while I was reviewing the list of the top five most tweeted upon programs last night (October 28) as provided by the Nielsen Social Guide. I’m not sure how one might determine which of Nielsen’s four measurement categories (Unique Audience, Impressions, Unique Authors, Tweets) mean the most or how they are weighed against each other. But according to Nielsen, when the numbers in those categories are factored into a final evaluation, certain shows stand out from the rest.

Interestingly, ABC’s relatively older-skewing “Dancing with the Stars” is No. 1 in last night’s Nielsen Twitter rankings. Does that mean the younger people who watch this highly rated show are super-voracious tweeters, or that the older people who make up much of this show’s audience are surprisingly among the Twitterati?

Last night’s edition of NBC’s “The Voice” is second on the list. Given the power of this show with younger viewers, its robust Twitter activity should come as no surprise. As with “Dancing” and other competition shows, Twitter activity seems to increase dramatically when a program is live.

Another live show -- “WWE Monday Night Raw” on USA Network -- is in third place on Nielsen’s Twitter list for October 28. No surprise there, but then again nothing in particular surprises me about the enduring strength of World Wrestling Entertainment programming except for its overall popularity four decades after it first exploded on basic cable television. No matter how the world changes, and how many new entertainment options become available, year after year WWE continues to siphon in hundreds of thousands of new young fans. Twitter would seem custom made for live communications between wrestling fans; they can be as raucous as they want to be from the comfort of their own homes. 

The real shocker among Nielsen’s Twitter Top Five for last night is that two VH1 shows that would seem to be below the media radar -– “Love & Hip Hop” and “Chrissy & Mr. Jones” -- ranked at No. 4 and 5. I can’t comment on these programs because I have never seen them, but the fact that they generated more Twitter activity on Monday night than anything other than the live shows mentioned above -- not to mention the shows on The CW, a network that prides itself on generating robust social media activity -- must mean something. Or maybe it doesn’t. I guess that depends on the weight one gives to Twitter activity in general.

It is also interesting to see which shows landed among the top ten on Nielsen’s Twitter TV Ratings for the week of October 21-27. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the special annual Halloween episode of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” landed at the top of that list. With its burgeoning fan base of female tweens and teens, “Liars” has long been acknowledged as the most Twitter-charged program on television. But what can it mean that the eagerly awaited “Liars” spinoff “Ravenswood,” which debuted immediately after the “Liars” Halloween show, plunged to No. 5 on Nielsen’s Twitter list? Was the audience for this show all tweeted out after the “Liars” frenzy? Or is this an indication that “Ravenswood” didn’t resonate with much of the “Liars” fan base? Again, it all depends on how much one reads into tweets.

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” ranked No. 2 on the Twitter list for the week. I presume it would have landed at No. 1 had “Liars” not been on. It would only make sense that the most watched and most talked about television show among viewers 18-49 would also be the most tweeted about, wouldn’t it? Maybe not.

The third spot goes to another big win for VH1: Ratings smash “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” also enjoyed major activity on Twitter. It seems peculiar to me that someone would sit around pounding out tweets while watching a movie, but then again, VH1 stuffs its programs with so many commercial breaks that viewers probably look for other things to do during them. (The same goes for many shows on most basic cable networks.) Tweeting is outstanding as a time-filler. That said, the VH1 story continues to grow this month, an accomplishment that is not insignificant, given the ferocity of the competition during the fall season. 

The No. 4 spot went to FX’s “American Horror Story: Coven,” another show one wouldn’t necessarily expect to generate significant Twitter activity, unless viewers feel compelled to react to scenes of graphic sex, gore and violence, in which case I have to wonder why “Coven” isn’t No. 1 on this list. Viewers certainly reacted to something they saw. Maybe that surprise “death” at the end of the episode set them off.

Rounding out Nielsen’s Twitter top ten for the week beginning October 21 were, in order, “The Voice,” “Dancing with the Stars,” MTV’s “Awkward,” “A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” and ABC’s “Scandal.”    

3 comments on "What Do Nielsen's Twitter TV Ratings Tell Us About Certain Shows?".

  1. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2013ac.com network
    commented on: October 29, 2013 at 9:29 p.m.
    This says a lot about those who Tweet while watching a TV program (Twits?) and very little about ...hmmm...anything else.
  2. Diane K De from
    commented on: October 30, 2013 at 3:55 p.m.
    Program length can influence the rankings. A 2-hour show has more time to accumulate tweets than a half-hour show.
  3. Doug Garnett from Atomic Direct
    commented on: October 30, 2013 at 4:53 p.m.
    Like programmers needed any more reasons to add outrageous stunts to TV shows that hurt the entertainment value...but are guaranteed to drive Tweets. What a silly idea. And what happened to Nielsen? They used to stand for quality research that offered insight. Today they stand for "gimmicks galore"...

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