The following is a guest post from Eleanor Dowling of Bluefin Labs, a social TV analytics company. You can follow Bluefin on Twitter @bluefinlabs and also like it on Facebook.
“TV is the most powerful medium in the world. It fulfills basic human needs: it informs, connects us socially, and creates incredibly powerful emotions.”
- James McQuivey, Forrester Research, at Hill Holliday’s TVNext Summit, 2011
It’s hard to argue with Mr. McQuivey’s statement, especially given the explosion in TV commentary that’s happening via social media. Twitter and Facebook are the water coolers du jour, but instead of chatting about a show the next morning, audiences are discussing them online in real time, with people they may not even know.
In fact, viewers made 441 million social media comments about TV during the 2011-12 TV season! That’s a whole lot of data . . . how do you even begin to derive insights from that many comments?
Enter social TV analytics, a subset of the big data industry. This new field of analytics continuously monitors conversations about TV programming, episode-by-episode, commercial-by-commercial -- something that can’t be replicated with networks’ traditional focus groups or surveys. The volume of commentary is constantly growing, “making it more important as an object of study and as a force network executives would like to harness,” said David Talbot in the MIT Technology Review
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The technology that goes into a social TV analytics platform is complex -- massive scale video fingerprinting of all televised content and specialized semantic analysis algorithms are just two of the necessary ingredients. But when all the pieces are in place, a social TV analytics platform can reveal, in near real-time, fascinating insights into viewers’ minds.
Glee, Season 3 Finale – Social TV Conversation Trend Line
The peaks represent the highest volume of social media conversation per minute. A quick glance at the chart shows you what moments got people talking the most, like Kurt’s dad lip-syncing to Beyoncé.
With the TV season having just concluded, let’s take a look at the social TV chart toppers for 2011-12.
Top TV Series
FOX clearly leads the way for social TV when it comes to broadcast series, owning the top three spots for average number of social media comments per new episode. The much-beloved musical series “Glee” ranks first with almost 200,000 comments per episode. Those gleeks sure love to talk in social media!
In the cable world, it should be no surprise that “Pretty Little Liars” is at the top -- Twitter even ranked it at number 1 in their 2011 Year in Review
for shows that fans just can’t stop talking about. ABC Family has been working hard on social TV strategy
, and it seems to be paying off.
For primetime broadcast series, FOX snags number 1 with 16.8 million comments during the season. But when you add in sports and special events, the data reveals that CBS leads in social media conversation with 44.2 million comments. Given that the Grammys, NFL Football, and NCAA March Madness all aired on CBS, this increase in social chatter makes sense.
We witness the same effect with cable -- looking at TV series only, MTV wins first place by over 2 million social media comments. But add in comments about sports and special events, and TNT (with college basketball and the NBA) and ESPN jump to the top.
Setting Social TV Records
In addition to their overall success in social TV, FOX and CBS also set two big records this season.
Clocking in at 1.4 million social media comments, FOX’s series finale of “American Idol” made history as the most commented-on series episode ever.
For the 2011-12 TV season overall, CBS wins the award for the most social media comments with the 54th Annual Grammy Awards
, which garnered 13 million social media posts.
It’s not just special events causing a flood of comments: compared to last year, we saw huge growth in the volume of comments about TV series season finales.
Annual Growth Rates for Social Media Comments for Season Finales (2011-12)
- The Vampire Diaries (CW) – 1,228%
- Parks and Recreation (NBC) – 1,130%
Desperate Housewives (ABC) – 1,023%
How I Met Your Mother (CBS) – 800%
The Simpsons (FOX) – 1,739%
Bottom line: Social TV has grown significantly in the past year as more viewers flock to social media to discuss their favorite shows and TV events. Just a year ago an on-screen hashtag was rare. Now shows are integrating social strategy from the beginning stages, and what results is a fascinating feedback loop between viewer and content creator that keeps people talking.
The ability for Big Data to monitor social TV activity provides key insights for networks that traditional ratings fail to address. When people share, comment and discuss TV online, programmers are able to see what content “pops” the most on Facebook and Twitter. Expect even more social TV chatter in the coming months.