NYC TV Week: Nielsen’s Twitter-TV Ratings Maps Chatter with A Few Surprises

Measurement Firm Wants to Include Demographics, Source of Tweets

The fact that the most tweeted show last week, Pretty Little Liars, was not the highest-rated may not be a surprise but it “poses some interesting questions,” Nielsen’s president of global product leadership Steve Hasker said about the company’s new Twitter TV ratings rollout.

The new measurement, which went live two weeks ago, shows for the first time how may people receive tweets, as well as how many are sent – a multiplier of about 50. The ABC Family show had a unique audience of 6.34 million (the total number of distinct Twitter accounts accruing at least one impression of one or more different Tweets ascribed to a TV episode). But Hasker acknowledged that no one was really sure what drove the massive numbers.

The agency is also puzzling over instances where similar shows with similar plotlines had wide discrepancies in tweets, and a number of other findings. Meanwhile, he said, it is providing the television industry with a set of highly useful new metrics. The data, he said will help networks integrate total Twitter engagement into ad sales strategies, identify so-called influencers among talent, and understand better how Twitter drives tune in.

The number of tweets about TV shows exploded in 2012 and rose by 62% to 560 million in the first half of this year. Nielsen acquired Social Guide, a company that had developed sophisticated algorithms to measure the relationship between tweets and TV viewing, and started working on the new ratings. A study released in August showed that tweets seemed to drive tune in 30% of the shows measured. And Twitter has touting its synergies with television as a major selling point in its upcoming initial public offering, billing itself as "the social sound track" of TV.

Nielsen, Hasker said in an interview with Multichannel News executive editor Kent Gibbons, will offer up the Twitter numbers and led the industry take it from there. “We’ll produce the metrics and the community will come and say what to use or focus on,” he said. “We promise we will move fast.”

In 2014, he said, the ratings agency will work on adding a demographic component with age and gender, and a way to break out the tweets according to source. Nielsen also wants to expand the three hours window where it now measure tweets before and after every show.