What TV shows are we live-tweeting the most?
Was The Sound of Music Live! the most popular thing on television last week?
If you weigh popularity in tweets – it sure was!
For months, we’ve been hearing about the relationship between Twitter and television. Most of that chatter is about potential: sketches of Twitter’s “vision for a TV-powered, profitable future,” musings about how the service might “save TV,” and so on. Live television and Twitter, we are told, are inextricably linked; at some point, it will become clear how.
Back in September, attempting to answer this question, Nielsen started releasing data on the most tweeted-about television programs, in the form of a new Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings top ten list. There wasn’t much to conclude from that chart’s debut. Now, however, we have a couple of months’ worth of data to eyeball and get some sense of what we tweet about when we tweet about the tube.
Nielsen helpfully provided me with all its top ten lists so far, going back to the week of October 7. Here’s what emerges.
First, let’s clarify what these ratings actually purport to measure — and what they don’t. There’s a raw count of show-specific tweets, starting three hours before a program airs, and extending three hours after it concludes. And there’s a trickier number labeled “unique audience,” which is meant to gauge how many people saw those tweets. The chart only tracks primetime and “late fringe” programming, and leaves out sports altogether (because basically sports would drown out the entire list).
Personally I’m more drawn to the tweet count, but Nielsen structures its list according that “audience” figure. Insert your own skepticism as you see fit.
Per the conventional wisdom that has emerged on this subject (in my September column on the subject and elsewhere) one-off live shows, and event programming, are ruling the charts to date. The 2013 American Music Awards, which aired on ABC on November 24, is easily the most-tweeted show in the young history of this metric: 7.6 million tweets, reaching a “unique audience” of 10.2 million.
The Sound of Music Live! generated about 500,000 tweets, reaching an alleged audience of more than 5 million. Other “events” that registered on the charts include the BET Hip Hop Awards (2.5 million tweets), the 47th Annual CMA Awards (1.6 million), the 2013 Soul Train Awards (417,000), and the 2013 Gold Glove Awards on ESPN2 (41,000). Similarly, contest-oriented reality shows are a fixture on these charts: The X Factor, Dancing With The Stars, The Voice, etc.
But contra the conventional wisdom, there’s also plenty of scripted drama — a category most expert observers seem to think isn’t terribly Twitter-friendly. The Walking Dead has been in the top ten every week since this chart began. Glee, Scandal, and American Horror Story: Coven all make repeat appearances, too.