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What Nielsen’s acquisition of SocialGuide means for the social TV industry

Earlier today, Nielsen and NM Incite announced they acquired the social TV data company SocialGuide for an undisclosed sum. While it’s big industry news, it’s not entirely unexpected: Nielsen has been ramping up its investment in social data while startups like Bluefin Labs, Trendrr, Networked Insights and SocialGuide have been hard at work creating and trying to standardize a new social dimension of TV ratings.

“In 1950 Nielsen established itself as the currency by which advertisers and TV networks transact and, today, continues to be the primary ‘report card’ that television network execs wake up to each morning,” explains Mike Proulx, author of the book Social TV, in an email with Lost Remote. “But in the modern era (the ‘social TV’ era) of television we’ve found insights from public social media interactions about TV shows to be an important and complimentary dataset to Nielsen ratings that adds dimension and color to media planning and buying decisions.”

As we’ve written before, this is more than a math problem. While most television networks, producers, showrunners and distributors understand the value of listening to the social “return loop” of television, there’s no consensus on how measure engagement and incremental tune-in — and how it translates into real dollars. The result has been a wide variety of metrics and services among the startups in the space, each battling it out for credibility in the industry. Trendrr, for example, even hired a former Nielsen exec.

Although initially behind, Nielsen’s SocialGuide acquisition should help the ratings company navigate the best of both worlds. “My hope is that Nielsen quickly finds a way to connect and unify the reporting of TV ratings + ‘social TV ratings’ now having everything under one roof instead of maintaining separate entities,” Proulx explains.

Nielsen has been working closely with Twitter to identify the link between tweets and viewing behavior, and the addition of SocialGuide to the mix will add more analytical chops. Since the early days of the startup, SocialGuide has invested heavily in Twitter. “We believe that Twitter is the dominant social TV platform, and networks’ Twitter specific social strategies will become increasingly important to their businesses,” Casey told us back in March, when the company rolled out a new analytics platform. “SocialGuide Intelligence was built to allow networks to use Twitter to engage with this key audience right from our platform.”

“The burning question on everyone’s mind is if there is a consistent correlation between social media buzz versus tune-in,” Proulx says. “After today, Nielsen is in a potentially powerful position to be able to answer that before anyone else.”

And what does this mean for the other social TV data players? “[It's] yet another example of the consolidation that will continue to happen with the many social TV companies out in the market right now,” Proulx predicts. One big exit strategy is off the table, but the reinvention of television as we know it is just beginning.

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