The 140 character social network – Twitter and the idiot box – Television have been working closely to make the entertainment industry a better place with their synergy. The friendship is now yielding quantitative results, says a recent report released by Nielsen, a leading global information and measurement company.


Twitter boosting TV ratings

Chatter On Twitter Improved Live Ratings For TV Shows 29% Of The Time

Earlier in the month Neilson shared in an independent study that the company looked at 221 broadcast primetime episodes and saw that the shows with higher ratings had an impact on what people were tweeting in 48% of the cases. Even more important, chatter on Twitter improved live ratings for TV shows 29% of the time.

The analysis methodology developed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Clive Granger found out the impact of tweets on TV ratings by genre, finding that tweets had the greatest impact on programs in the competitive reality genre and influenced ratings changes in 44% of episodes. According to Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer Ali Rowghani, the findings validate what many of the social networking and microblogging site’s TV partners have been saying for years: “Namely, that Twitter drives tune-in, especially for live, linear television programming.”

Is Twitter boosting TV ratings in India?

The recent findings by Nielsen were conducted for the US market where Twitter witnesses more than 25% market share while the market in India is still scratching the surface on social. “TV reaches to 750 million viewers and Twitter roughly about 20 million users, so at this point in time the population size is niche to connect the two in a big way,” shared Vivek Srivastava, Digital Head at COLORS, a Hindi language Indian general entertainment channel part of Viacom 18.

Television in the US has been two way and in India the trend is gradually developing. Today both television channels and Twitter are motivating viewers to have conversations while watching real time programs.

Himmat Butalia, Marketing Head at Sony PIX, an Indian movie and sports channel is in consensus with Vivek and adds that, “The synergy between both TV and Twitter are touching in India so it would take some time before Twitter conversations drive the live program ratings.”

Twitter trying to be the second screen in India

Boosting ratings might be an early call but right now Twitter is encouraging conversations related to specific TV programs. Whether it was the IPL 2013 or reality show finales on TV, Twitter is seeing the chatter along with incentives.

The journey for the television channels that started with opening up a presence on Facebook and who had used Twitter to create conversations, reaching out to people to conduct quick contests, are now trying Twitter as a second screen or a companion device that allows a television audience to interact with the content they are consuming, such as TV shows, movies, music, etc.

Sony PIX worked closely with Twitter to promote MIB 3 television premiere by engaging in live conversations with the viewers, thereby making it the first ever interactive movie premiere in India. A Twitter handle would appear during certain important scenes to encourage conversations. The same was followed during the recently concluded “Nach Baliye 5″ finale by Star Plus. Viewers of the live show on TV were invited to take part in the Twitter contest to predict the Nach Baliye 5 winner. And the recent TV channel to follow the trend is Colors TV which has walked the same path to engage with twitterati during the Miss India contest. The below tweet provides the hint.

A first: @ColorsTV is engaging its audience & integrating Twitter across all events & fiction shows! #SocialTV

— Twitter India (@TwitterIndia) March 29, 2013

Though the Twitter India Head, Rishi Jaitly couldn’t share his thoughts due to his busy schedule, Himmat considers Twitter to be an integral medium due to its ease of use.

“We did a 360 degree marketing during the MI3 launch on TV and we pushed a lot on Twitter too. However we had relevant touch points while the movie was on air and that made people involve in meaningful conversations. Marketers want people to talk and we not only made conversations happen but also had the ratings,” he added while talking over the phone.

Vivek also believes that – “There is no denying that the usage is increasing and social media platforms such as Twitter go a long way in increasing the engagement and buzz around the shows. Viewers today are keen to comment about their favorite characters, moment and shows. Our effort on these platforms is to channelize this communication and fuel conversations.”

Too much of chatter a problem?

Twitter has a problem apart from brewing conversations; it leads to a lot of chatter that might not hold any value to the brands. This has been happening for some time now on Twitter with lot of brands misusing the platform by getting themselves trended.

Twitter is getting abused since trending is happening over contests.

“Trending should happen over conversations but today they are happening over contests,” Himmat pointed out. He further added that, “Incentives are required, we also had giveaways during the MI3 campaign but they were driven by quality conversations.”

Additional research and challenges

Twitter is all about quality of conversations and the guardians of the company should do something to stop the misuse of the platform. In fact the problem of more conversations has also been highlighted by a digitally savvy TV executive with All ThingsD. The executive shared that beyond a certain point tweets about TV shows just leads to more tweeting and not more eyeballs.

The findings by the Neilson report definitely needs additional research since the study concluded that “most of the time, there was no statistically significant relationship between the two sets of data”.

Moreover the consumption of TV in the developed world today is just not about real time watching. Today it is not happening over the couch but is also happening by watching the episode the next day for free on (or the following week on Hulu). Also on iTunes, streaming on your mobile, etc. All these factors have not been considered by Nielsen and that’s why Brian at Guardian thinks the report to be a bit foolish right now.

For India the biggest challenge is the penetration of social media platforms such as Twitter, which is a small fraction of the TV base. Besides this Vivek thinks, “The profile of audiences is relatively younger and skewed toward the metros and tier1 towns as compared to the audiences that a General entertainment channel which involves the entire family (especially the women of the house) coming in from all geographies – metros, Tier1,2,3 towns.”

However, Vivek is positive and thinks that in the next few years the profile will broadbase and we will see more and more people coming in from varied demographics and geographies. Twitter in India is pushing hard to make this happen and globally it is working aggressively on strengthening the TV integration. Whether it be by introducing “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating”, an industry-standard metric that is based entirely on Twitter data or by providing TV ad targeting on Twitter; Twitter definitely is going to grow its influence on TV viewing in the near future.

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