New Twitter Ratings from Nielsen Won't Save Your Favorite Low-Rated Shows, But They Will Be Fun Anyway!

Categories: 1-Featured,Broadcast TV,Cable TV,Internet TV

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December 17th, 2012

The year 2012 is coming to and end and TV advertising still foots most of the bill for your favorite broadcast network shows and pays for a whole lot of your cable favorites too. From a ratings perspective advertisers care about how many people watch their commercials.

One simple way to think about why the newly announced Nielsen/Twitter ratings won't matter much to advertisers is this: Twitter can skew --some might say "be gamed"-- in ways the Nielsen TV ratings (as opposed to the newly announced Nielsen TV Twitter ratings) can't be. A relatively small audience (compared to say, NCIS or The Voice) can make an outsized amount of noise on Twitter  as it is. I look forward (I'm not kidding) to the torrent of "RT to Save Our Show <insert show here>!!! IT WILL BE COUNTED" that will be unleashed on us all.

But as far as the TV advertisers are concerned the loud cries on Twitter will only matter if they make a difference in terms of the number of people who actually watch their commercials and if that happens it will show up in the regular Nielsen TV ratings anyway.

The new measurement makes a lot of sense for almost everyone involved.

They make a boatload of sense for Twitter: "Look at us now. We've got Britney, Lebron, The Kardashians, The Pope and Nielsen! We're a big part of the television landscape!" And there's no doubt that Twitter actually is a big part about the discussion of television shows on the Internet. But discussion does not equal payment.

It makes sense a boatload of sense for the networks. Twitter is basically free marketing and PR for the networks and their shows. While I speculate that the networks probably don't need the additional metric to figure out how to best manage their internal and external social networking resources, the new measurement can help with that too. And of course there is the opportunity for stuff like this: "The New #1 Hit Show on Twitter!" It's brilliant!

The new measurement makes sense for Nielsen, too. It's another product it can sell. Nielsen can say "hey, we're not stuck in 1965. We're hip to the times!" But my favorite part is the opportunity to give a lot of people the illusion that their voice matters. "Tweet and you will be counted!" It will all be true, they will count you in their twitter metric.

But unless and until it matters to the advertisers, it won't make any difference at all in terms of which shows get cancelled and renewed. Some will say: "bah, nobody watches TV anymore and the current advertising model is going away!" But plenty of people told us that five years ago before we  even launched this site. Five years later and people are still watching a boatload of TV. Lots of people are talking about TV shows on Twitter, and that wasn't the case five years ago. But TV advertising, not Twitter, is still footing most of the bill.

Yep,  I know TV advertising isn't paying for your HBO, Showtime, etc. pay channel favorites. But Twitter isn't paying for those either. You are!

  • Mary

    Robert, it wasn’t the post itself that I found snarky. It was just the title. I read the “they will be fun away” as a swipe at people who’d (unjustifiably) use Twitter as a reason why their show isn’t doing too bad.

    I took it to mean that it’d be fun seeing people use it as a fan Bingo excuse. However, if you simply meant that it’d be interesting to know the results then I apologize.

  • AppleStinx


    The “they” in “they will be fun” could only be in reference to “Twitter Ratings”. I can’t believe “low-rated shows” would be “fun anyway”.

  • Amy

    I do think social media can affect ratings if a lot of people start talking about a particular show.

    For example. a lot of people didn’t learn about the show SUITS on USA until this year, in their second season. People on Twitter and Tumblr started talking about it and people got caught up with S1 first and then started watching S2.

  • Robert Seidman

    Applestinx is correct. I meant the Twitter ratings – despite not mattering to renewals– will still be fun regardless.

  • Robert Seidman

    Amy: I’m a Suits fan, but its social media presence according to services like Trendrr which do something similar to the new Nielsen metric, Suits had far less of a twitter presence than some shows that don’t rate nearly as well in the TV ratings as Suits rated.

    Any marketing — especially practically free marketing– is good, but I’m not seeing the Twitter cause and effect with Suits. That’s not to say that Twitter didn’t help Suits, it’s to say Suits rates much higher than shows like Nikita which makes more noise on Twitter.

  • silvit


    Yet Suits did better last year than this year, IIRC. I don’t think any summer show did better this year vs last year.

  • Hillbilly

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    The brief discussion of the pre-Amanda and Sara era of TVBTN has led me to wonder why they don’t express their thoughts of things more often. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen Sara in the comment feeds.


    I have 3 times. I think she must be really shy..she doesn’t have a picture/gravatar.

  • Dave Franco

    Social media does affect ratings… I say most people watch shows online.

  • Richard Steven Hack

    Dave: “I say most people watch shows online”

    You’re delusional.

    And I say that despite the fact that I download all my TV shows. :-)

    Unless you mean that most people watch SOME shows online, which might be true – but irrelevant to the ratings which don’t measure that at all.

    As Robert is correctly saying, the new Twitter ratings will mean nothing.

    However, there is one grain of truth in your comment: If people want the ratings of their favorite show to rise, they need to get on the social sites and promote their favorite show. And that means NOT going on show FAN sites, since that’s preaching to the converted. They need to get on general sites and TV viewer sites to promote their show. This might have at least some chance of generating enough “buzz” that some additional percentage of the Nielsen families might actually watch it – and that is what might raise the show’s ratings.

    Everything else is a waste of time.

  • Richard Steven Hack

    Oh, and when people do promote their show online, they need to give a rational REASON. Just saying, “This show is great!” means nothing. Everyone has an opinion, just as everyone has a butt-hole… :-) Giving a reason bolsters your case and might help persuade a Nielsen family member to watch the show.

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