Does social media buzz always equal a huge audience? Not necessarily. Nielsen, the sampling company which is the go-to measurer of TV viewership, book, and CD sales, has just released a joint project with Twitter which reveals that the most tweeted about TV shows were not necessarily the most viewed. They did this by measuring the tweet mentions of various TV shows and comparing them to the Nielsen ratings for those shows. The Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings were derived by adding the audience for various tweets, including retweets and followers. Thus a tweet by Pitbull, with 14.3 million followers, counted for more than a tweet by The Beat, with .001 the number of followers.
Seen through a Twitter lens, the No. 1 television show for the week of Sept. 23 to 29 was AMC’s “Breaking Bad” by a mile, with 9.28 million people seeing tweets about the show’s finale — but the episode wasn’t even among the top 20 in total viewership for the period, according to Nielsen primetime ratings.
To be clear, the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are not intended to demonstrate that a highly tweeted show means it will be correspondingly a highly viewed program. Rather, the metric is designed to show the total Twitter activity relating to specific shows, to help networks and advertisers figure out how to better use the social service to drive awareness and tune-in.
Only one show—The Voice—appeared in both charts.
Here the top Tweet chart:
1. AMC, “Breaking Bad,” 9.28 million
2. NBC, “The Voice” (Monday), 3.84 million
3. ABC, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (Thursday), 3.40 million
4. ABC, “Dancing with the Stars,” 3.20 million
5. ESPN, “SEC Storied,” 2.93 million
6. ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy,” 2.84 million
7. NBC, “The Voice” (Tuesday), 2.77 million
8. Fox, “Glee,” 2.73 million
9. CBS, “How I Met Your Mother,” 2.55 million
10. Fox, “The X Factor,” 2.09 million
And the Top Ten Nielsen rated shows for the period:
1. NBC, “NFL Football: New England at Atlanta,” 20.49 million
2. CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” (Thursday, 8:31 p.m.), 20.44 million
3. CBS, “NCIS,” 20.02 million
4. CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” (Thursday, 8 p.m.), 18.99 million
5. CBS, “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 16.35 million
6. CBS, “The Crazy Ones,” 15.52 million
7. NBC, “Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick,” 15.26 million
8. NBC, “The Voice” (Monday), 14.98 million
9. NBC, “The Voice” (Tuesday), 14.35 million
10. ESPN, “NFL Football: Oakland at Denver,” 13.92 million
As far as we can tell, this proves a few theories; based on the number of CBS shows in the Nielsen Top Ten, old people don’t tweet as much. Also, this is, as far as we can tell, the first statistical proof of the “fan buzz does not always equal a big audience” conventional wisdom which we’ve seen proven via the “San Diego Curse” numerous times. Now, most of the shows on the Twitter list are reality entertainment competitions like X Factor and Dancing With the Stars, not exactly little known cult geek fare, so this doesn’t apply directly to anything in Nerd World, but it is a fascinating metric.