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.”

  • Douglas from Brazil

    the popularity of show doesn’t mean that people are watching commercials.Advertisers care about people watching them not the shows. Watching a show live may indicate people watching commercials but in other hand people are skipping commercials and watch others shows during commercials.

  • halaci

    Geez, I would like to get money for providing common sense knowledge as a result of a survey. “our study doesn’t prove causality” – from this on what’s the sense of the whole survey? That young people use social media more often than older ones?

    And what does the “X% increase in twitter correlates to 1% increase in rating” means. Last week TBBT was the top show with 4.8 rating. 1% increase would mean 0.048 => 0.05 increase. That’s below the error margin, and this is the highest rated show. Now count it to TVD, with its 1.1 rating…

  • aron

    This is BS Xfactor had more buzz than every other show, trending WW every night, but the ratings didnt show that

  • Lynn

    In other news, water is wet.

  • Hillbilly

    The new ratings chart coming in 2014. ;)

    Show A – 2.2 18-49 4.3 viewers (millions) 430,000 Tweets

    Comment section on TVBTN –

    Show A certain to be renewed…look how many tweets it got.

  • cimmer

    @cadburyeasteregg – although fanfic and fan art is usually the purview of female viewers, which I find interesting. There are plenty of shows off the air now that still have a strong fanfic/art base with sites but all that wasn’t enough to keep them on the air. Although I agree, if you can’t get the fanfic community interested in your show then yes, you are probably doomed.

  • Jlopie1

    So…how fast can YOU tweet? It really wouldn’t take many viewers tweeting furiously during an hour program to rack up 500,000 tweets! How can you quantify the % increase in viewership by just counting total number of tweets? That’s why some of the most tweeted about shows did not have correspondingly high ratings! Looks like Nielsen has yet to figure out how to incorporate social media into their ratings, but I’ll give them a 1/2 point for at least trying!

  • David

    If I understand what this study is saying, it is that for a particular show, there is a correlation between an increase in the number of tweets about the show and an increase in the ratings. It says nothing about comparing the amount of tweets of two different shows and being able to determine which one has more viewers or higher ratings.

    It also doesn’t say that if the producers of a show or the network were able to convince people to tweet more about the show that the ratings would go up as well.

  • Carmen

    @ 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??”

    I don’t necessarily think so. Lots of people. . .maybe most on an individual tweet feed. . .have not actually seen the show, and, more importantly, have not seen the commercials on the show. Those 32 million unique tweeters are recycled again and again and again on individual tweets. There are still close to 200 million non tweeters watching TV.

    Moreover, like most statistics, things can be presented as more significant than they really are.
    Take a highly tweeted about show on the CW or even NBC for example.

    If a 4.2% increase results in a 1% gain in (18-34) demo during the middle of a season, then that essentially says that it would take a 20% twitter feed increase to raise a 2.0 demo show to a 2.2 demo show (4.2% x 5 =20% x .01 increase = .21)
    And that assumes everyone on the twitter feed actually saw the show.

  • YHall

    It is about time the television industry merge ratings with social media.

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