Social media activity boosts catch up viewing

Clear evidence that social network activity around a linear broadcast drives subsequent catch up viewing has come from a study by Nielsen, the world’s leading TV audience measurement specialist. This is significant for broadcasters in that time shifted viewing within the seven day window after linear showing now accounts for an increasing proportion of the total, up to 50% or more in some cases among 18 to 34 year olds.

Nielsen’s study assessed the relationship between 11 different variables and time shifted “+ 7” viewing and found some positive correlation for every single one. In most cases this confirmed conventional wisdom, with the strongest correlation of 42% being between the size of the original audience and the level of subsequent catch up viewing. The bigger the live audience the greater the percentage of total viewership accounted for by catch up afterwards.

It was also found that reality series were 31% more likely to be watched live than the average, while a premiere episode, regardless of genre, was 15% more likely to be watched live.

But correlation between viewing and social TV engagement, as measured by Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings (NTTR) impressions, was significant, even when the other 10 variables had been taken into account. Nielsen found first that a 10% increase in NTTR impressions corresponded to a 1.8% increase in the +7 audience. Then Nielsen drilled deeper, isolating a set of shows that have common characteristics, such as drama series or games shows, focusing purely on the relationship between audience size and NTTR impressions. This found that shows generating high levels of social media activity enjoyed total “+7” audiences 36% larger than the live audience alone, while for shows with low social activity the total was just 16% higher.

This study went further than previous studies, such as Kantar Media’s UK based ‘A Year in the Life of TV and Twitter‘, published in September 2014, which found that TV Tweet levels broadly correlate with TV channel shares and programme or series viewing figures across a broad time period. That study was confined to the overall relationship between social media and TV viewing rather than assessing potential for predicting catch up viewing after initial broadcast. However it did indicate that specifically encouraging twitter activity during a show has a positive impact on viewing of subsequent episodes and also advertising campaigns, which is a very similar finding to Nielsen’s.

For broadcasters and networks the implication is that they can boost time shifted viewing by stimulating social media activity in and around the airing of the show. Such activity could also be taken into account in predicting what the time shifted audience will be, which broadcasters and some measurement agencies are increasingly doing.

The Nielsen findings will also be noted by Twitter itself, particularly in the context of its Amplify service that allows broadcasters and content owners to share live TV clips and video content in real-time. Twitter Amplify brings two key features, firstly allowing broadcasters to pin the social video tweet to the visible part of the feed so users are more likely to see it and engage with it. Secondly, the key amplification part is that the broadcaster can associate the social video tweet with specified topics or themes. Then anyone tweeting about these topics or searching for them will come across the tweets, so that they reach a far bigger audience than just the broadcaster’s own followers.

Twitter will naturally argue that Nielsen’s findings highlight the value of Amplify in expanding social media activity with a view to boosting time shifted viewing as well as advertising campaigns.

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