Wait, What? The Twitter TV Ratings That Nielsen and Twitter Announced Won’t Get Included in the TV Ratings?

Categories: Internet TV,New TV Technology

Written By

March 24th, 2013


We sometimes take it for granted that folks understand that the primary purpose of the Nielsen TV Ratings is to facilitate the sales of commercial TV advertising. That the Nielsen Ratings don't do plenty of things that many fans wish they would do, is old news. Also old news: that's because they're not supposed to do those things or designed to do them. The Nielsen Ratings are not supposed to be a popularity metric.

Why aren't iTunes, Amazon and Google Play views included in the Nielsen Ratings? Because not only do they not carry the same ads that ran on TV, they don't carry any advertising at all.

So I wanted to get out in front of the curve. The forthcoming new  “Nielsen Twitter TV Ratingwill be completely separate from the Nielsen TV Ratings. So next season if anyone asks if Arrow's overnight ratings include all the tweeting, you can definitively tell them "no!" On the plus side they will include any DVR viewing up to 3am after the telecast.

The Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings is a separate product for a mostly (arguably completely) separate purpose. Nielsen is a global market research firm that does and sells many things besides the Nielsen TV ratings. The Twitter product will be one of those other things. That product, which will measure Twitter engagement with specific programming, is aimed at helping TV networks market more efficiently on Twitter and better execute cross promotional marketing (like when your TV screen implores you to tweet about the show you're watching with a special hashtag).

We can debate about how the data will be used, but there’s no arguing about this: it won’t be counted in the Nielsen TV Ratings.

  • Fake Me Out

    Chuck may come and Chuck may go …
    Fringe may come and Fringe may go …
    Nikita may come and Nikita may go …
    Nielsen’s sux and don’t measure reality lasts forever …
    and so do the page views Bill & Robert love so dearly.

    If Joe & Jane Lunchbag ever gain a grasp of basic statistics your page views will suffer … here’s hoping their continued ignorance is your bliss. :-)

  • HotLatino4GayMarriage

    The majority of posters in this article are spelling Nielsen right, I always have a laugh when I see the way people spell it on the ratings thread: Nielson being the most common, I laugh because it’s at the top of every page!! and they spell it wrong, LOL.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “….before critics would start to come around.”

    The only “critics” that matter are the ones writing checks to Nielsen. Basically, the TV networks and the big ad agencies (and perhaps by association, big advertisers). And if they have a fundamental problem with Nielsen *accuracy* they’re keeping it pretty much to themselves.

    Whiny fans are irrelevant. They are neither the customers of Nielsen, nor the TV networks.

    What? Whiny fans not the customers of TV networks?

    Nope. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2012/09/18/broadcast-tv-viewers-youre-not-the-customer-youre-the-product-being-sold/146373/

  • AppleStinx

    I see some hurdles: I don’t remember ever having entered my age or date of birth in Twitter, so ratings by age group would be difficult even with access to Twitter’s database. Maybe they could assume that, say, 90% of users are under 49. Even so, they would have to trust users to be honest. And then there’s location; user can “be” in any of 50 (currently) countries plus ‘worldwide’. Maybe assume that the bulk is from the US. Also count private tweets?

  • Holly

    How could you possibly combine the two? I get people thinking they should combine online and tv ratings because at least those would both be measuring viewers. Those who think that would still be wrong since ratings aren’t measuring popularity, but at least their is a reasonable thought process. Wouldn’t the twitter measurement be counting tweets, not viewers?

  • Holly

    *there is, not their is*

  • Saba Morton

    Exactly who have these boxes and most important are where are t hese boxes located?Another question, who own the home the boxes are in? What age group?Its all about stats and what and who want the ratings.Neilsen is all about stats thats keeping the major network ratings war. Lots of the younger people don’t watch talk show at night. Lots of channels, are everyone being looked at in these stats?Neilsen is outdated and so are those boxes.Statistics are a science that can go in any directions you just have to know the directions and the targets you want to hit.SO who is paying Neilsen???

  • Holly


    You’d have to get a million or more households before critics would start to come around.

    During sweeps Nielsen adds an additional 2 million paper diaries to their regular measurements. Assuming different people each of the 4 sweeps periods, making 8 million additional people/households being measured throughout the year. That fact doesn’t phase whiny fans in the least. Why would another company make any difference?

  • Holly

    My apologies, I read wrong. It’s 2 million diaries for the year, not each period, but the point still stands.

  • cimmer

    You mean the ratings aren’t a popularity contest or a true measure of a show’s quality?lol
    I still maintain, if the advertisers and the networks thought they could get away with showing us ads 24/7 and no shows, they would. I could envision a future where the ads become the shows. Max Headroom, here we come. lol

  • Tested

    If I were Nielsen (or a competitor) I’d create a ratings system with boxes in .1% of all households (130,000?) and I would buy set top box data from all major cable and satellite operators. The ratings boxes would give demographic data and the cable/sat boxes would give more overall viewership data. Coming up with a way to record out of home and other screen viewing would come too..likely with a smart phone app that could run in the background.

  • Two

    Can you turn straw into gold or do you have an orchard of money trees that is going to pay for all of that?

  • Teag

    Oh look, a smug post by TVBTN.

  • Tom

    Measuring social engagement is not synonymous with measuring television viewership. For example, for years, the CW’s “One Tree Hill” ranked near the top of television shows in social engagement and near the bottom in ratings. It’s also reasonable to assume that social media engagement is more likely to skew toward a younger audience because of the broader acceptance of social media among that group.

    Audience measurement has been getting more refined as time passes. So, if your favorite show is crashing, its likely not because you and your like minded friends don’t all have Nielsen boxes. Political pollsters don’t interview every voter in the country before making a prediction. The trick is in constructing the proper sample audience not exponentially increasing the number of participants.

    It might be interesting for advertisers to see how some shows measure in terms of social engagement, but I’d still expect them to be considerably more interested in traditional ratings.

  • HalCapone

    As I have been saying for some time, the DVR is going the way of the VCR within the next year or so. Video on Demand is the next big thing-even though it has been around a while. Not that our one home is setting the trend but we have all but stopped using the DVR and why not, since so much content is available on demand, either through our cable service and over the web. No more setting the DVR or letting it record a zillion programs, most of which will never be watched (at least that’s what was happening in mi casa). It is my understanding that in order for VOD content to be included in Nielsen ratings, the same commercials have to be shown while being viewed on demand as on broadcast television. The ability to fast forward through commercials is turned off which should theoretically make VOD more attractive to both networks and advertisers over DVR usage.

    As far as “sociopathic” media (all the twits and likes and unfriending, etc) and its purported importance to television ratings …well, I just leave that to all the sociopaths out there to debate till their fingers are too tired.

  • Teag

    I use DVR still.

  • Ultima

    If I were Nielsen (or a competitor) I’d create a ratings system with boxes in .1% of all households (130,000?) and I would buy set top box data from all major cable and satellite operators

    That’s because you don’t think those things cost money, apparently. :roll:

  • Dexx

    HalCapone.I don’t know about with other companies, but when Comcast has on demand content that doesn’t allow for fast forwarding, there is actually a way around it. Pressing the ff button does nothing but pressing “page up” will forward ahead five minutes. Then the viewer can rewind to get to get to the point that they want. It is a bit of a pain and there is the risk of being spoiled while rewinding, but the fact that even “no fast forwarding” can be worked around may discourage ratings from being counted since viewers can still skip the ads.

  • Jay

    its one thing to count itunes and amazon, but twitter mentions? come on

  • Richard Steven Hack

    And it won’t have squat to do with cancellation or renewal of any show. The ONLY things that will EVER matter to the studios and networks is: how much MONEY is the show bringing in THIS season and how much MONEY is it going to bring in NEXT season – and what is the potential for syndication revenue if it doesn’t bring in much MONEY NOW.

    Everything else is utterly irrelevant: awards, social media, fans… :-)

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