Nielsen and Twitter combine to measure Twittering about television

With the rise of Twitter messages about television shows and events, Nielsen and Twitter just announced a new project to measure the connection:

“The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating is a significant step forward for the industry, particularly as programmers develop increasingly captivating live TV and new second-screen experiences, and advertisers create integrated ad campaigns that combine paid and earned media,” said Steve Hasker, President, Global Media Products and Advertiser Solutions at Nielsen. “As a media measurement leader we recognize that Twitter is the preeminent source of real-time television engagement data.”…

The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating will enhance the social TV analytics and metrics available today from SocialGuide by adding the first-ever measurement of the total audience for social TV activity – both those participating in the conversation and those who were exposed to the activity –providing the precise size of the audience and effect of social TV to TV programming.

SocialGuide, recently acquired by Nielsen and NM Incite, currently captures Twitter TV activity for all U.S. programming across 234 TV channels in English and Spanish, and more than 36,000 programs.  Through a sophisticated classification process, SocialGuide 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 may be interesting in itself but the key may just be translating this into information that TV networks can sell to advertisers:

Brad Adgate, an analyst at Horizon Media, said advertisers will view the Twitter ratings as a useful layer of information about a show’s popularity, but it is “not going to be close to the currency” of existing ratings metrics.

“It lets producers and creative directors know if the storyline is working, like a huge focus group,” Adgate said. “But I don’t think you can translate comments to ratings for a show. Right now I think the bark right now is bigger than its bite.”…

Mark Burnett, executive producer of NBC’s hit “The Voice,” argued that advertisers should value programs that can attract a high level of social media engagement from viewers. Deeply embedded social media elements, such as live Twitter polls, were critical in driving “The Voice” to the top of the Tuesday night ratings among viewers between 18 to 49, Burnett said.

“If you’re an advertiser, wouldn’t you want to know whether people are watching this show passively or if they’re actively engaged in the viewing experience?” Burnett said. “Five years from now this will make traditional television ratings seem archaic.”

In other words, if this metric works well, television networks will be able to charge advertisers more based on increased levels of Twitter engagement or find some way to provide more targeted advertising to Twitter users. What will Twitter engaged TV watchers get out of it? I’m not sure. Will any of this measurement and action based on the data enhance the interactive element of TV watching? Theoretically, if TV networks could get more money for advertising based on social media engagement, they might have more money to put into developing quality programming. But, there are few guarantees there.

I’ll be very interested to see in coming years if Twitter and Facebook continue to remain relatively ad-free or if the need to monetize these experiences to make money takes precedence.

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