Reflecting the deepening connection between TV and social media, Nielsen has introduced a new ratings system that seeks to measure the audience for TV-related conversations on Twitter.
The new Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings will take into account not only the people commenting on a TV episode, but also the broader universe of people exposed to those tweets. The measurement firm's analysis found that the average Twitter audience for a show such as NBC's singing competition The Voice is 50 times greater than the number of people tweeting.
"We always knew there's a larger audience being impressed by and influenced by the tweets about TV," said Sean Casey, founder of Nielsen's SocialGuide unit. "We're excited now to present that data."
Twitter has emerged as a virtual water cooler, where viewers gather to discuss in real time the events unfolding on TV — be it the finale of Breaking Bad or the Super Bowl.
Some 19 million people in the U.S. produced 263 million tweets about TV in the second quarter this year, a 38 percent increase in volume of comments from a year earlier, Nielsen reported.
"It speaks to Twitter's default status as being the essential social data point around television viewing," said Tim Hanlon, founder of media and technology consulting firm Vertere Group. "And it speaks to a consumer consumption reality that television — and by extension, video — is a multifaceted thing. It is no longer exclusively a live, linear, sit-back-and-watch phenomenon."
Both Twitter and Facebook have sought to capitalize on the popularity of TV shows and grab a piece of the billions of dollars advertisers invest in the medium. In Twitter Inc.'s regulatory filing last week preparing for its initial public stock offering, the company describes how it has worked to make its platform more attractive to media outlets as well as advertisers.
Networks and advertisers have been dedicating resources to capture audiences when their eyes are drawn to their smartphones, tablets or laptops — what the industry refers to as the "second screen."
Prominent TV showrunners such as Marlene King of Pretty Little Liars interact with viewers on Twitter as each episode of the ABC Family show airs. Advertisers have designed campaigns that pair TV and Twitter — such as a Wheat Thins giveaway that Twitter cited in its regulatory filing that generated more than 242,000 tweets mentioning the brand.