New Nielsen Study Confirms Correlation Between Twitter and TV Ratings

Categories: Network TV Press Releases

Written By

March 20th, 2013


via press release:

New Study Confirms Correlation Between Twitter

and TV Ratings

U.S. TV viewers are taking to Twitter to talk about TV, and the digital chatter is building steam. According to SocialGuide, 32 million unique people in the U.S. Tweeted about TV in 2012. That’s quite the confab, but what does it all really mean for the TV industry? Should networks and advertisers be paying attention? Early research on the subject from Nielsen and SocialGuide says yes.

By analyzing Tweets about live TV, the study confirmed a relationship between Twitter and TV ratings. It also identified Twitter as one of three statistically significant variables (in addition to prior-year rating and advertising spend) to align with TV ratings.

“While prior-year rating accounts for the lion’s share of the variability in TV ratings, Twitter’s presence as a top three influencer tells us that Tweeting about live TV is likely a significant indicator of program engagement,” said Andrew Somosi, CEO of SocialGuide. “We expected to see a correlation between Twitter and TV ratings, but this study quantifies the strength of that relationship.”

Much of the correlation is being driven by the rise in media consumption across multiple device screens. We know that 80% of U.S. tablet and smartphone owners who watch TV use their device while watching at least several times a month. We also know that 40% of U.S. tablet and smartphone users visit a social network while watching TV.

How well does Twitter align with TV program ratings? The recent Nielsen/SocialGuide study confirmed that increases in Twitter volume correlate to increases in TV ratings for varying age groups, revealing a stronger correlation for younger audiences. Specifically, the study found that for 18-34 year olds, an 8.5% increase in Twitter volume corresponds to a 1% increase in TV ratings for premiere episodes, and a 4.2% increase in Twitter volume corresponds with a 1% increase in ratings for midseason episodes. Additionally, a 14.0% increase in Twitter volume is associated with a 1% increase in TV program ratings for 35-49 year olds, reflecting a stronger relationship between Twitter and TV for younger audiences.


Further, the study found that the correlation between Tweets and TV ratings strengthens for midseason episodes for both age groups. An increase in Twitter volume of 4.2% and 8.4% is associated with a 1% increase in ratings for 18-34 year olds and 35-49 year olds, respectively. Moreover, by midseason Twitter was responsible for more of the variance in ratings for 18-34 year olds than advertising spend.

“The TV industry is dynamic and it was important for us to analyze multiple variables to truly understand Twitter’s impact on TV ratings,” said Mike Hess, Executive Vice President of Media Analytics for Nielsen. “While our study doesn’t prove causality, the correlation we uncovered is significant and we will continue our research to deepen the industry’s understanding of this relationship.”

  • Jacob

    Can someone please simplify that for me

  • outlawz

    this ppl need to stop twitting n start watchin the godanm shows

  • susie

    Good to see social media is showing more ppl are watching and talking about the show then Nielsen does.

  • SH

    Wish they would have figured this out when Lie to me* was still on the air! That show went Twitter crazy with Tim Roth and the directors and producers tweeting. It was awesome to have that inside connection; made the show so much more significant when you were watching.

  • Sarah

    I wonder if the collaboration will help Bones next season. I hope it does.

  • AppleStinx

    I think we’ll see Twitter activity as a major component of the Renew/Cancel index before long.

  • _JC

    Maybe I’m not reading this properly, but is there more to this than just the painfully obvious “popular shows get tweeted about more”?

  • Observer

    I agree, correlation is not causation.

  • Conor

    So what I am taking from this is that Neilsen is saying see our models work. However in recent past there are always ones where this model doesn’t work as well… Chuck if my memory serves correctly was a highly tweeted about show, but the ratings didn’t sync. For me I wonder if Nielsen will move to incorporate that data into their model, and with this study could some networks account twitter hype into what shows are picked up.

  • Bill Gorman

    “For me I wonder if Nielsen will move to incorporate that data into their model,”

    Why would they? Nielsen ratings are meant to measure how many people watched the ads during a TV show, not the popularity of the show.

  • obisgirl

    the people at Nielsen are idiots. so sad that they had to make this study to tell us what we already knew.

  • PurpleDrazi

    “it was important for us to analyze multiple variables to truly understand Twitter’s impact on TV ratings,”

    Yeah but does Twitter impact TV ratings or do higher viewer numbers impact Twitter? I suspect it’s the latter. It could be a useful tool to determine popularity of a show but let’s face it, a show being popular doesn’t necessarily mean it will get good ratings. If people aren’t watching it live, they don’t count.

  • PurpleDrazi

    I would also like to add…

    Oh crap! More ammo for the delusional fans who will completely misunderstand this.

  • DW

    the thing is , most people probably use twitter during those commercials and not paying attention to them. this seems rather pointless.

  • cadburyeasteregg

    I notice that the viewership on message boards and Twitter are about the same and oh boy is there a noticeable demographic. You know your show is in trouble when sites like ONTD, TWOP, Lipstick Alley and ATRL are the only people discussing it according to Google hits and maybe one small Tumblr blog. If the show doesn’t have at least half a dozen fan fiction and fan art LiveJournals or Tumblrs by the end of the season, your show is doomed.

  • Jackson

    I agree with JC… It sounds like as a show’s ratings increase so does the volume of tweets. Isn’t that just basic logic of more people watching so more people tweeting??

  • Bee

    lol if ratings or popularity were to be determined by twitter, scandal would be the most popular show on all of TV by a mile.

  • Michael

    In reality, most of the young demographic who are tech savvy probably aren’t even a part of the Nielsen Family.

  • jamandas

    I like to to tweet during some shows. TVD is a big one also when Fringe was on.

  • eridapo

    the key word is “engagement” which means that those that are twitting are paying attention to what is airing. It is no different than the Nielsen prompt that pops up to let the PPM know that someone is actually paying attention..

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