The Nielsen ratings sytem for television shows has long been outdated as, now, a substantial amount of audience tend to watch TV on their phones, laptops, tablets or various other devices. It's the future, guys, get with it. Luckily though, Nielsen proved their relevance today by releasing a new study called "The Follow-Back," which analyzed live ratings for 221 primetime TV shows and compared it to the Twitter activity about the show. Their intent was to figure out whether or not TV ratings really are affected by Twitter activity, much like we saw in the case of Scandal, which has seen a steady growth in viewership thanks to massive amounts of attention on Twitter, and Sharknado, which pulled in more tweets than even Game of Thrones' insane Red Wedding episode.
Their findings were big, to say the least. From the study:
By analyzing minute-to-minute trends in Nielsen’s live TV ratings and tweets for 221 broadcast primetime program episodes using Nielsen’s SocialGuide, the study found that live TV ratings had a meaningful impact in related tweets among 48 percent of the episodes sampled. The results also showed that the volume of tweets caused 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, Nielsen’s chief research officer. “This rigorous, research-based approach provides our clients and the media industry with a better understanding of the interplay between Twitter and broadcast TV viewing.”
Specifically, the findings revealed that reality TV was the most affected, which makes sense: If I saw someone tweeting about someone doing something crazy on a reality TV episode, I would probably watch it.
Tweets had the greatest impact on programs in the competitive reality genre, influencing ratings changes in nearly half (44%) of episodes. Episodes in the comedy (37%) and sports (28%) genres also saw significant increased tune-in from tweets, while programs in the drama genre were less affected (18%) by tweets during episodes.
According to the Chief Research Officer at Nielsen, Paul Donato, the point of the study was to figure out what exactly the relationship is between television and social media activity so advertisers can better figure out how exactly to sell things to viewers. "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," he explained.
Just as Big Brother and 1984 intended.