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TV’s Social-Media Appeal

Much has been made about declining ratings and audiences for cable-network programming amid competition from digital over-the-top services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Yet cable shows were among the most popular in the digital arena during the 2015-16 television season, according to a recent Nielsen report on Twitter usage.

AMC’s veteran zombie thriller The Walking Dead (pictured) was on average the most tweeted series on television for the third consecutive year, averaging 435,000 tweets per episode and besting the 387,000 tweets averaged for Fox’s highly-rated series Empire, according to Nielsen.

HBO’s Game of Thrones, USA Network’s WWE Monday Night Raw, FX’s American Horror Story: Hotel, MTV’s Teen Wolf and VH1’s Love & Hip Hop all finished among the top 10 most tweeted TV shows during the season, which covers the period of Aug. 31, 2015, to May 29.

Twitter users also gave some love to Netflix-distributed shows, including a whopping 1.2 million tweets following the February release of Fuller House and 526,000 tweets that accompanied the Dec. 15, 2015, release of the OTT service’s documentary Making a Murderer.

Viewers are engaging with their favorite shows and spreading the word about every big character reveal, riveting storyline and crazy, season-ending cli_ anger on social media, which bodes well for the viability of such content going forward. For network executives and showrunners, social media attention is almost as valuable a tool in determining the success of a series as overall viewership numbers.

That’s especially true for live sports content, based on the category’s huge social media performance during the television season. Sports fans are not only watching live sports in record numbers, but they’re also talking about the games on social media.

ESPN2’s April 13 telecast of Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game drew 3.4 million viewers despite a late 10:30 ET start time. More impressively, the game — in which the Black Mamba scored 60 points — generated a whopping 4.5 million tweets, second in the live sports category only to the 16.9 million tweets drawn by CBS’s Feb. 7 Super Bowl telecast. Beyond live sports, it was the fifth most-tweeted event on television, behind the Super Bowl, Grammys, Oscars and American Music Awards, per Nielsen.

Overall nearly 1 billion tweets were sent about TV content during the 2015-16 season. With more video content being viewed than ever before and with no decline in social media usage on the horizon, it’s almost certain that TV content will continue to be a major source of discussion for viewers on all social media services, including Twitter, regardless of which platform viewers choose to watch on.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.