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Cable Technology Feature Article

August 09, 2013

Not-So-Odd Couple: Twitter and TV Reinforce Each Other

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Much has been made of social TV and the influence of talking with “friends” about what’s on the boob tube. Nielsen has released findings that actually quantify what we instinctively knew: there is a measurable two-way causal influence between broadcast TV tune-in for a program and the Twitter (News - Alert) conversation around it.

Nielsen’s Twitter Causation Study included time series analysis to determine if Twitter activity drives increased tune-in rates for broadcast TV and if broadcast TV tune-in leads to increased Twitter activity.

Analyzing minute-to-minute trends in Nielsen’s Live TV Ratings and Tweets measurement for 221 broadcast primetime program episodes using Nielsen’s SocialGuide, the findings show that live TV ratings had a statistically significant impact in related tweets among 48 percent of the episodes sampled, and that the volume of tweets caused statistically significant changes in live TV ratings among 29 percent of the episodes.

“Using time series analysis, we saw a statistically significant causal influence indicating that a spike in TV ratings can increase the volume of tweets, and, conversely, a spike in tweets can increase tune-in,” said Paul Donato, chief research officer at Nielsen. “This rigorous, research-based approach provides our clients and the media industry as a whole with a better understanding of the interplay between Twitter and broadcast TV viewing.”

The peanut butter and chocolate aspect of the two’s relationship is also borne out in a converse phenomenon: increases in TV ratings during an episode cause more people to tweet more often. This may be because there are more people available to tweet about a show, or because more compelling content drives people to tweet more often.

"These results substantiate what many of our TV partners have been telling us anecdotally for years: namely, that Twitter drives tune-in, especially for live, linear television programming,” said Ali Rowghani, Twitter’s COO. “As the world's preeminent real-time social communication medium, Twitter is a complementary tool for broadcasters to engage their audience, drive conversation about their programming, and increase tune-in."

“Media companies and advertisers have already made investments in social media outreach as a means of engaging more directly with consumers, and we believe there are worthwhile opportunities for Nielsen to conduct additional research that can help quantify the relationship between television and social media activity,” said Donato.

Nielsen has been working to incorporate social TV measurement into its wheelhouse. Last December, Nielsen and Twitter began collaborating on the appropriately-named Nielsen Twitter TV Rating, which complements Nielsen’s existing TV ratings, giving TV networks and advertisers real-time metrics for understanding TV audience social activity. The service leverages Nielsen’s recent acquisition of SocialGuide, which captures Twitter TV activity for all U.S. programming across 234 TV channels in English and Spanish, and more than 36,000 programs.

“Our users love the shared experience of watching television while engaging with other viewers and show talent," says Chloe Sladden, vice president of media for Twitter. "Twitter has become the world's digital water cooler, where conversations about TV happen in real-time. Nielsen is who the networks rely on to give better content to viewers and clearer results to marketers."

According to the Nielsen Cross Platform Report, a full 85 percent of mobile owners use their tablet or smartphone while watching TV at least once per month, and 40 percent do so daily. About 36 percent of those aged 35-54 and 44 percent of those aged 55-64 said that they are looking up programming and related information while watching TV.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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