More data of all sorts continues to pile on for TV shows. What it all means depends on:
1) The kind of network
2) The needs of clients
3) How quickly you can make sense of it.
Take the most recent week. Start with Sunday’s “MTV Movie Awards.” At first blush you would think a 27% sinking of its traditional Nielsen TV numbers from the previous year -- to some 2.8 million viewers -- looks fairly bad.
Yet things might not look so bad when taking in one measurement: social media activity. The show had a Nielsen Twitter TV rating of 9.1 million unique audience -- three times that of TV viewers. The actual number of tweets climbed 36% versus a year ago, to 2.4 million.
Social media activity is still heavy with young media consumers and TV viewers, so all this might make sense for MTV. But will it add to the value of the Movie Awards next year, or to similar awards specials, when it comes to selling to a new round of advertisers?
Often, we are still looking at apples and oranges. Yet there is some sense of connection. Measuring the Twitter audience is about the consumption of associated TV program content -- short videos, other brief stuff, and sponsored tweets. But what does this mean specifically for longer sight, sound, and motion “lean back” traditional TV content?
HBO’s “Game of Thrones” on Sunday also registered high social media activity last week. Traditional TV viewing: 6.3 million viewers. Twitter uniques: 4.5 million.
USA Network’s “WWE Raw” programming on Monday -- three hours of it -- averaged around 5.1 million viewers. Twitter delivered 3.0 million uniques.
Traditional viewing for Sunday’s premiere of AMC’s “Mad Men” was down 32%, to 2.3 million. Twitter uniques were 2.6 million. Not bad considering that “Mad Men’s” dominant TV audience is mostly older viewers, with the demographic 25-54 or higher.
Farther down the list for the week, “The Voice” had more disparate results when comparing TV viewers and Twitter activity. The singing competition show on Monday tallied 12 million TV viewers but just 1.7 million Twitter uniques. Similar results occurred for the show on Tuesday -- 11 million TV viewers and 1.5 million Twitter uniques.
For many networks and programmers, a lot can be made of their advertisers making sponsored Twitter deals to gain extra-engaged audiences for their traditional TV programming.
For some of them, social media data is only one part of the equation that’s not completely figured into media plans.
Increasingly, networks would like to observe something more clear-cut, by accounting for closer-to-home time-shifted viewing. For example, longtime programming analyst Steve Sternberg recently told MediaPost that only 30% of “Mad Men” viewing comes through its original airings.
Looking into the upfront season, you can be sure sellers will throw more new data the way of marketers -- all to give a little extra push to deals, as well as to possible mediocre cost-per-thousand price increases.