Twitter and TV Don't Necessarily Help Each Other

It’s upfront time, and TV/media executives hope to get the answers to many of their questions. But answering the riddle of how Twitter and TV connect may not be in the cards.

Networks want to believe that Twitter provides them with an important ally in combating viewer erosion -- by promoting viewership via engagement, buzz and reading.

However, one key NBC Universal executive -- Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development --- recently told the Financial Times that the evidence isn’t there. And, mind you, he really wanted to reveal a positive story about Twitter increasing TV viewership:  

“Why wouldn’t I want to say to you, ‘We have a potent new way in which we can drive ratings?” Wurtzel said, adding “It just isn’t true...I am saying the emperor wears no clothes. It is what it is. These are the numbers.”

Specifically, he noted that just 19% of Sochi Olympics viewers posted about the games on social media. That showed that NBC was helping Twitter, not the other way around, he said.

Many broadcast and cable networks, including NBC Universal, have done deals for Twitter’s Amplify product, which allows users to receive content that adds to their TV viewing or reminds them to tune in. Additionally, networks hope to use Twitter’s ‘Promoted Tweets’ to reach new audiences. TV brand advertisers hope to get a cross-platform tool.

Some executives say it makes sense that millions of tweets related to one specific program mean something.  But exactly what?

If Twitter doesn’t specifically bring higher viewership, the theory is that it points to more “engaged” viewers -- which means more valuable viewers. And perhaps Twitter can find other metrics that programmers and advertisers will value beyond engagement and ratings.

Daily Nielsen and Twitter TV-related data – such as unique authors, audiences, and actual numbers of Tweets -- reveal a mixed picture. Both big broadcast network shows and smaller cable shows make the list, but there isn’t any connection or relationship to TV viewership.

You may wonder what other network executives -- broadcast, cable, and otherwise -- think about the real effects Twitter and other social media platforms are having on TV viewership.

More observations, research and analysis will come -- but the conclusions we expect will not always be the ones revealed.

Tags: tv
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4 comments about "Twitter and TV Don't Necessarily Help Each Other ".
  1. Edmund Singleton from Winstion Communications , May 1, 2014 at 6:58 a.m.
    If you are writing a tweet while watching a television show then you are not watching a television show...
  2. Jim Monroe from Net2TV Corporation , May 1, 2014 at 10:58 a.m.
    Finally some hard evidence makes its way into this silly discussion.
  3. Rob Frydlewicz from RAF Consulting , May 1, 2014 at 1:41 p.m.
    I've lost key moments of a show while tweeting about it, so no more!
  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc , May 1, 2014 at 2:01 p.m.
    Much has been made of Twitter, and there is little doubt that it can be an indicator of a show's popularity, particularly with new series. But just how extensive is tweeting anyway? According to Nielsen, a typical American watches about five hours of TV daily. This translates to roughly six national or local programs seen fully or partially per day (excluding very short intervals of viewing via dial switching). Taken across a year, this means that the average person is exposed to something like 2,190 telecasts. Project this against the total TV population aged 2+, and you get an astronomical figure of about 635 TRILLION telecasts seen annually. If these generated 980 million tweets in 2013, this breaks down to a mere 648 per telecast. This is worth remembering when gauging the overall importance of tweeting about TV shows. It's a fairly selective response mechanism, not a ubiquitous accompaniment to all TV viewing.