I love it when a new series of prime time TV show like The Apprentice and Celebrity Jungle starts. Not only does it bring around a new set of “celebs” to watch (and cringe at) but you can be sure there will be a good deal of banter and comment on Twitter and Facebook.

Apprentice Tweet

With the news that nearly 220,000 tweets were sent out about the first Apprentice programme it is proof that our viewing habits are changing. Dual-screening (watching TV and using a tablet or smartphone) is the norm for many TV viewers.

But how much influence does the likes of Twitter have on the success of a TV programme?  Does social media directly drive TV ratings? Does social/digital buzz translate to more eyeballs on the screen, or just more critics?

Twitter in particular has become a powerful messenger and a lot of fun for TV fans – providing the opportunity to engage, connect and voice an opinion directly during a TV show. Nearly every TV show includes at least one social media component to drive engagement with its viewers e.g. #apprentice

Up until now the way TV programmes were measured with a carefully selected sample of the population along with a clever little bit of black box technology. In the UK the Broadcast Audience Research Board (BARB) are the people the TV networks turn to in order to confirm viewing figures. They measure the number of people watching TV shows and makes its data available to the TV networks, advertisers and the media. To ensure reasonably accurate results, the company uses audits and quality checks and regularly compares the ratings it gets from different samples and measurement methods.

But in the today’s environment of Sky+ and “watch-again TV” the viewing habits of the general public are very different. In Canada and the United States, Nielsen Media Research has measured viewing households using similar black box sampling to BARB. However, in December they announced a collaboration with Twitter to launch the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating”.

It followed a study by Nielsen that found a correlation between the volume of social media chatter and a show’s ratings.

“An 8.5% increase in talk about a TV show on Twitter corresponds to a 1% increase in TV ratings for premiere episodes for the 18-34-year-old group, and that figure drops to 4.2% for midseason episodes.”

It is no surprise that social media buzz influences people’s viewing habits. You only have to look at Twitter’s daily trending topics that have people switching over to see what everyone is talking about, and recommendations from friends encouraging their followers to switch over and join the conversation.

Now that Nielsen has found a correlation between the volume of social media chatter and a TV show’s ratings it looks like we are entering a new era of TV viewing measurement. It’s not only about the actual number of people viewing a show but also the amount of online interactions taking place.

The Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings will be online in the Autumn of 2013, however in the meantime there a several other services offering measures of real-time tweets during TV shows.

SecondSync UK Social TV Leader Board

Second Sync - UK Social TV Ratings


SecondSync Social TV Leader Board


Social Guide Intelligence – US Social TV Rating

Social Guide - US TV Social Ratings


Social Guide Intelligence – US Social TV Ratings