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Nielsen to introduce 'Twitter TV Ratings' in Fall 2013

For years, the conversation surrounding the Nielsen ratings system has included the terms 'outdated,' and 'obsolete.' And it's been true: the system, through which networks determine how many viewers each show has (and subsequently make decisions to renew/cancel shows), is one that hardly provides an accurate picture of actual viewership. As pretty much anyone with internet access is willing to tell you, the way we watch television has changed; Nielsen has not. 

On Monday, though, there were surprising signs of change in the air -- namely, the announcement that Nielsen and Twitter have partnered up to deliver a new type of TV rating. In a statement, the two companies revealed "an exclusive multi-year agreement to create the 'Nielsen Twitter TV Rating' for the US market. Under this agreement, Nielsen and Twitter will deliver a syndicated-standard metric around the reach of the TV conversation on Twitter, slated for commercial availability at the start of the fall 2013 TV season."

The announcement described the move as a "significant step forward for the industry," recognizing Twitter as "the preeminent source of real-time television engagement data."

"The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating will serve to complement Nielsen’s existing TV ratings, giving TV networks and advertisers the real-time metrics required to understand TV audience social activity," the statement continues. The system will use a program called SocialGuide, which "matches Tweets to TV programs to offer key social TV metrics including the number of unique Tweets associated with a given program and rankings for the most social TV programs."

This is interesting. 

While it doesn't address many of the problems with the current Nielsen system -- notably, the significant underrepresentation of DVR users -- this is the first ratings system, to my mind, that goes beyond the measurement of whether or not viewers are simply watching a show. It measures how engaged they are while watching the show, which might end up giving smaller-rated shows with more fervent viewers a bigger chance to make a ratings impact. 

Of course, if we're looking at it objectively, ratings are all about advertisers -- they determine the real estate costs of commercials during a certain timeslot. But this new system might change the conversation -- might a smaller group of more engaged viewers be more valuable than a larger group of more passive viewers? It's possible. 

I also can't help but feel that at least some of the credit for this development belongs to the fanbase of the FOX series Fringe, a group that really utilized Twitter to spread awareness about the series. With a weekly series of concentrated campaigns that often made the series (and its advertisers) some of the most-discussed (trending) topics on the site, the fans eventually gained the support of FOX, who have begun displaying the fan-created hashtags at the bottom right corner of every episode (such as last week's "#freeyourmind," pictured). Apparently, such support has proven to be effective. How effective? We'll probably have to wait until fall 2013 to find out. 

What do you think? 

 

 


Details
Show:
- Fringe
Network:
- FOX

Written by: mcpherson
Dec 17th, 2012, 1:22 pm

rtruell

Level 1 (36%)
Since: 17/Apr/12
Message Posted On Dec 18th, 2012, 9:13 am

"the way we watch television has changed; Nielsen has not"

 

Actually, that's not quite true.  These days, Nielsen takes into account the viewing of shows that have been time-shifted via VCR/DVR/PVR, up to 7 days after the show originally aired.  AFAIK, however, they don't take into account viewing via VOD (where shows are available the day after airing on TV) or via the Internet.  Although I suspect that the networks keep track of the viewings via their web sites and make that data available to advertisers as well.

 

"The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating will serve to complement Nielsen’s existing TV ratings"

 

Well, at least this will have one benefit as far as us Canadians go: since a lot of (most?) shows air on Canadian TV at the same time, or within hours, of when they air on US TV, Canadian viewers will *finally* be counted in the ratings for US shows.  It's been a *long* time coming...counting Canadian viewers could probably have saved several shows from being cancelled.

 

"While it doesn't address many of the problems with the current Nielsen system -- notably, the significant underrepresentation of DVR users"

 

That's hardly the notable problem with the current system, given that DVR time-shifted viewing is counted in the ratings these days every bit as much as live-viewing is.  The notable problem with the system is the same as it pretty much has been since the start of the program: the system only takes into account the viewing habits of "Nielsen families", and each "Nielsen family" is considered to represent the viewing habits of a large number (4,580 as of 2009, according to Wikipedia...25,000 "Nielsen families" out of 114,500,000 homes with a TV) of American families.  The fact that anyone would attach any significance at all to such a small sample, let alone decide whether a show lives or dies, is laughable.  Technology these days is such that it's possible to take into account what show *every* cable/satellite connected TV is tuned to.  Nielsen is just far too slow to adapt to technology.

 

"Of course, if we're looking at it objectively, ratings are all about advertisers ... might a smaller group of more engaged viewers be more valuable than a larger group of more passive viewers? It's possible"

 

An interesting question.  I think one potential problem with your theory is that advertisers are not interested in just overall numbers, but also in the age demographics those numbers fall into...which can't be determined from Twitter.  If it was just overall numbers, you could well be right.  Of course, since most Twitter users probably fall into the prime demographic group (18-49), it's possible the overall number of Twitter users talking about a show would be enough for advertisers...especially when combined with the data from Nielsen.  Another potential problem with your theory is: when are these viewers that are more-engaged with the show doing their tweeting...especially if it's so-called "live tweeting"?  Probably not while show content itself is on, because then they'd be missing parts of the show and thus wouldn't be as engaged.  Most likely they'd be tweeting during the commercials...which would be bad news for the advertisers, since that means the viewers aren't watching the ads.  Looked at from that point of view, the advertisers might consider the more-engaged viewers as *less* valuable than the more-passive viewers.  Of course, an argument could be made that even though the more-engaged viewers aren't *watching* the TV, the sound is most likely still turned up, so they're still *hearing* the ad pitch...which could have the same result as watching the ad.

 

Overall, I agree with you.  This idea is very interesting and has lots of possibilites...not the least of which is turning the rating system on its ears, which would most definitely be a good thing and one that is long overdue.  I guess we'll see just how well it works next fall.

 

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