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Breaking: Nielsen releases study that proves causal relationship between Twitter and TV ratings

Nielsen has just released a major study for the social TV world. The study “proves there is a causal relationship between Twitter conversation and TV ratings — the volume of Tweets influences the number of TV viewers,”  as described by Twitter’s communications team referencing Nielsen’s big announcement. 

Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer, Ali Rowghani has also released this statement.

These results substantiate what many of our TV partners have been telling us anecdotally for years: namely, that Twitter drives tune-in, especially for live, linear television programming. As the world’s preeminent real-time social communication medium, Twitter is a complementary tool for broadcasters to engage their audience, drive conversation about their programming, and increase tune-in.

The announcement affirms what everyone has always suspected – Twitter can drive ratings. Now there is a major study to point to, to justify these claims. This announcement will no doubt help Twitter justify more spending across its ad platform (especially with its TV products). Twitter explained that, “Twitter drives tune-in *while a show is on the air* because Twitter is real-time, public and conversational. So creates an echo chamber that makes the conversation grow and grow. The product is uniquely suited to complement TV in this way.” The full announcement should be available eventually here. In the meantime, it’s pasted here.

NEW NIELSEN RESEARCH INDICATES TWO-WAY CAUSAL INFLUENCE BETWEEN TWITTER ACTIVITY AND TV VIEWERSHIP 

Findings Validate That Tweets Can Influence Tune-in Rates

While TV Programming Drives Twitter Activity

New York, NY – August 6, 2013 – Today Nielsen released findings, which, for the first time, provide statistical evidence of a two-way causal influence between broadcast TV tune-in for a program and the Twitter conversation around that program. Nielsen’s Twitter Causation Study included time series analysis to determine if Twitter activity drives increased tune-in rates for broadcast TV and if broadcast TV tune-in leads to increased Twitter activity. This latest study follows research released earlier this year that quantified the correlation between TV ratings and Twitter.

Analyzing minute-to-minute trends in Nielsen’s Live TV Ratings and Tweets for 221 broadcast primetime program episodes using Nielsen’s SocialGuide, the findings show that Live TV ratings had a statistically significant impact in related Tweets among 48 percent of the episodes sampled, and that the volume of Tweets caused statistically significant changes in Live TV Ratings among 29 percent of the episodes. The time series analysis methodology used for this study was developed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Clive Granger, and is widely used in the fields of econometrics, physics, and neuroscience, among others.

“Using time series analysis, we saw a statistically significant causal influence indicating that a spike in TV ratings can increase the volume of Tweets, and, conversely, a spike in Tweets can increase tune-in,” said Paul Donato, Chief Research Officer, Nielsen. “This rigorous, research-based approach provides our clients and the media industry as a whole with a better understanding of the interplay between Twitter and broadcast TV viewing.”

This is the first study to quantify the extent to which higher levels of tweeting may cause additional viewers to tune in to programming. The results also demonstrate what many industry observers thought to be true – that increases in TV ratings during an episode cause more people to tweet more often. This may be because there are more people available to tweet about a show, or because more compelling content drives people to tweet more often.

“These results substantiate what many of our TV partners have been telling us anecdotally for years: namely, that Twitter drives tune-in, especially for live, linear television programming,” said Ali Rowghani, Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer. “As the world’s preeminent real-time social communication medium, Twitter is a complementary tool for broadcasters to engage their audience, drive conversation about their programming, and increase tune-in.”

“Media companies and advertisers have already made investments in social media outreach as a means of engaging more directly with consumers, and we believe there are worthwhile opportunities for Nielsen to conduct additional research that can help quantify the relationship between television and social media activity,” said Donato.

Nielsen’s Twitter Causation Study was conducted independently as part of a broader body of research to better understand and quantify the relationships between media consumption and related social media activity.

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