MBPT Spotlight: Numbers Game—Why We’re Still “Talking Social TV”

About one of every six times (roughly 16% of the time) a viewer is watching primetime TV, that viewer also is using social media. And slightly less than half of social media activity being done while users are watching TV (7.3%) relates to the TV programming.

So, 7.3% of viewing occasions involve social media related to the show being watched. We call these occasions “socially connected viewing.”

Social media appears twice as effective for attracting viewers to new shows (6.8%) as returning shows (3.3%).

Social media activity about new shows peaks around premieres. Specials, indexing at 212, sci-fi at 152, and sports at 129, lead among genres in socially-connected TV viewing.

That said, traditional TV promos still exceed social media in terms of influence in helping viewers find new shows—by at least three times.

These are among many findings from the Council for Research Excellence’s (CRE) recently completed study, “Talking Social TV 2,” a follow-up to the CRE’s 2013 “Talking Social TV” study.

A research team from Keller Fay Group conducted this newest study, fielded by Nielsen Life360, during the fall 2013 TV season.

Our findings were gleaned from more than 78,000 mobile-app diary entries submitted by nearly 1,700 study participants (aged 15-54), across a broad set of demographics, permitting case studies on some 1,600 shows.

The study findings gave us some deeper insights to the demographics of social media use in relation to TV viewing. People who use Facebook connected to their TV viewing skew heavily female, and they are more likely than average to be in the 25-44 age group. They are also more likely than average to be Hispanic. People who use Twitter as part of the viewing experience are over-represented in the 15-34 age group.

We also wanted to understand the extent to which the social networks contribute to socially connected viewing. So once again, looking at the total size of the socially connected viewing universe as 7.3%, we found that people connect to TV socially via Facebook on 3.8% of viewing occasions, and with Twitter on 1.8% of viewing occasions.

Other forms of social media were also measured, but they get less than 1% scores.

While there has been a lot of excitement—call it “buzz” or “heat”—around the topic of “social TV,” what the CRE has set out to do with these two “Talking Social TV” studies is to shed actual light on the topic.

We can safely report, for example, that social media definitely has become established as a second-screen option for a select group of viewers. We also can report that social marketing seems effective in generating conversation around new season premieres, particularly with certain genres of programming.

Since there has been so much talk about social TV, the CRE felt it was important to learn more. The CRE is an independent research group created (in 2005) and funded by Nielsen that is dedicated to advancing the knowledge and practice of audience measurement methodology. It comprises senior-level industry researchers representing advertisers, agencies, broadcast and cable networks, program distributors, syndicators, local stations and industry associations.

As researchers, we are not in a position to feed any “hype” about the topic of social TV; the CRE’s role is to help provide real understanding. We think this latest study has advanced that objective.

A presentation of findings to the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) Re:Think conference can be found on the Social Media Committee page of the CRE website. The CRE will share the full report on its website later this spring.