NEWS30 April 2014

Social media doesn't affect TV ratings, says study; Twitter CEO disagrees

News North America

US — Social media is not yet a “game changer” for boosting TV ratings, according to research by NBC Universal.

According to an article in the Financial Times, NBC Universal (NBCU) observed media habits during the Sochi Winter Olympics and found that during the 18-day period of coverage, just 19% of Olympics viewers posted about the games on social media. NBCU’s head of research, Alan Wurtzel, concluded that a show’s ratings were more likely to drive activity on social media rather than vice versa.

“A lot of people want to show that they are on the cutting edge. One of the things that is on the cutting edge is social media,” said Wurtzel. “Why wouldn’t I want to say to you, ‘We have a potent new way in which we can drive ratings?’”

“It just isn’t true. I am saying the emperor wears no clothes. It is what it is. These are the numbers.”

But according to an article on tech news site re/code, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has made a statement in defense of Twitter’s effect on TV ratings. “Our Twitter and TV strategy, and our investment into that thesis, was very much based on data that we saw informing the two-way complementary relationship between Twitter and TV,” Costolo said.

“As that strategy has evolved, and we’ve continued to invest in it, there is a host, and a continuing emergence, of independent, third-party rigorous research that validates our belief in that investment thesis and strategy. Fox research has produced research that shows 92% of Twitter users have taken immediately some action like either tuning into the TV show, or searching for the TV show after seeing a tweet about the show. Symphony Advanced Media highlighted that using Twitter while watching TV decreases an audience member’s likelihood to change the channel. And then Nielsen found a causal relationship between Twitter activity and tune-in. Further, there were only three things that correlated with TV ratings in that study: Prior seasons’ ratings for the show, ad spend for the show, and Twitter activity.

“So all of that tells us, in addition to I would say, the growing number of content providers and broadcasters participating in our Amplify program, that our Twitter and TV strategy is on the right track.”