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Nielsen Ratings and Social Buzz: Is There A Formula For Fall TV Premieres?

The X Factor Gets Most Social Media Buzz of Fall TV PremieresThis fall saw a huge buzz about social media efforts surrounding TV show premieres, from social games to Character Chatter to Tweet Week.  How can networks measure the success of their social media strategy for each show?  And what does social media success mean for more traditional television (Nielsen) ratings? Turns out answers to both questions are popping up rapidly.

SocialGuide is a platform that tracks social media activity and engagement for television, and can rate which show is the ‘winner’ of the fall premieres. According to Mashable, SocialGuide tracked Facebook comments, tweets, overall followers and other stats on 12 of the most anticipated Fall TV premieres (including The X Factor, New Girl, Pan Am, Charlie’s Angels and The Playboy Club.)

The results:

  • The X Factor easily took the lead, with more than 50,000 unique viewers and more than 100,000 comments across all social networks (although according to Mashable, the X Factor had a “huge promotional push, longer run time and inherently more social format” than the two shows below)
  • New Girl came in second with 24,634 uniques and 31,553 comments
  • Pan Am was third with 11,645 unique viewers and 17,535 comments
  • The number of comments-per-follower for all 12 shows was relatively consistent, with 1.22 comments being the lowest (2 Broke Girls) and 2.09 being the highest (The X Factor)

The actual primetime ratings told a different story. Leading social TV series The X Factor’s Wednesday and Thursday premieres ranked 19th and 20th in Nielsen’s TV ratings. Second and third place social TV stars New Girl and Pan Am did not even make the top 25 in Nielsen’s ratings. The show with the lowest number of social comments –  2 Broke Girls – came in a pretty decent fourth among most-watched new shows.

Is there a formula to compare social media success with actual television ratings?  A recent study by NM Incite and Nielsen found that a correlation between social buzz and TV ratings does exist, though it varies throughout the course of the season and with different demographics. The strongest correlations were found with younger demographics, viewers ages 12-17 and 18-34.

The results for viewers ages 18-34:

  • social media buzz most closely aligned with TV ratings in the weeks just before a show premieres – generally a 9% increase in buzz correlated to a 1% increase in ratings
  • as the show’s season went on, the correlation weakened – a 14% buzz increase correlated with a 1% increase in ratings at both the mid-season mark and just before the show’s finale
  • reality shows (competition and non-competition), dramas and comedies saw the biggest social-to-ratings impact with women in this age group
  • men in this demographic showed the strongest correlations with competition reality programs and dramas

For older viewers, the timing of social media influence was opposite. Social media buzz had a greater impact on ratings toward the end of the season, rather than at the beginning or middle.  Also, a slightly stronger correlation was found for women over men, through all age groups.

We second Mashable’s request to “see specific gains for specific shows — or specific losses.” And follow-up is required to see which shows (if any) see a deeper correlation between social buzz and Nielsen ratings as the season continues.  For Pan-Am, a successful launch has already begun a rapid descent, despite tons of social media outreach.

Is social TV here to stay, and will it start to have a greater effect on traditional television rankings?

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