The Internet has certainly changed how we watch TV— but not just in the way you’re thinking.
Take the much-anticipated “Breaking Bad” season finale a few weeks back. That episode was mentioned in 1.2 million tweets. It’s estimated those 140-character messages then reached 9.3 million users. (VIdeo: AMC)
This is usually referred to as “social TV,” and Nielsen believes one day, these numbers might be as important as traditional ratings. So on Monday, it said it will start the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating” system.
It was first announced last December. But now, it’s fully developed and ready to track shows, like “Grey’s Anatomy,” which the New York Times reports received about 225,000 tweets for its September 26th episode. (Video: Twitter, ABC)
But that’s just the tip of the Twitter iceberg. A reporter for The Wall Street Journal elaborates on Nielsen’s numbers.
“What Nielsen’s doing is not just counting the tweets that are sent but people that are seeing them. So they’re participating in the conversation passively by maybe searching for a show or following a TV blogger.”
So the “Grey’s” number jumps to about 2.8 million accounts that saw a tweet about the episode. (Video: ABC)
The New York Times notes, “It is impossible to say how many of those users watched the show as a result of the posts, but previous research has found that Twitter activity sometimes spurs viewership.”
Basically, it’s important to look at tweets about TV and actual viewers as two different numbers. And Nielsen is doing that. (Video: Twitter)
Take “The Voice.” It’s September 23rd episode finished second in the Nielsen’s Twitter ratings and eighth in traditional viewers. The rest of the Twitter top ten were nowhere on TV’s top ten list. (Image: The Wall Street Journal)
This is unsurprisingly causing some networks to say the social site isn’t representative. And well, the numbers don’t lie, it’s not. But that doesn’t mean Twitter’s meaningless.
CNET reports, “...marketers see opportunity in knowing which shows have traction with Twitter users. The thinking is that more Twitter engagement will translate into greater attention for the program's advertisements.”
Another potential benefit? Viewers could skip their DVRs, and instead watch “How I Met Your Mother” — and its ads – when it airs. After all, you wouldn't want a tweet to spoil the episode for you. (Video: CBS)
Nielsen might also just be catching the trend early. According to the company, tweets about TV increased 24 percent over the last year with about 263 million posts in the second quarter of 2013 alone.
And Twitter’s certainly made TV a focus. The company reportedly mentioned TV 42 times in its IPO filing Thursday.