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Nielsen, Twitter partner for TV ratings

The metric aims to measure social impact for advertisers
December 21, 2012

No longer content to measure the size of the tv-watching audience, Nielsen TV ratings is planning a joint venture with Twitter to track viewers’ engagement with the programs they watch, a new metric set to roll out in fall 2013.

The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating will provide metrics for the total audience for social TV activity, including Twitter users participating in conversations about shows on the network, in an attempt to show, for the first time, social media’s impact on television viewing figures.

“This is an organic partnership that grew out of our previous work with Twitter,” Matt Anchin, senior vice president at Nielsen, told CJR. “We’re building on our work with SocialGuide to create a reach metric of not only tweets, but the people reading tweets.” Nielsen announced that it had bought a stake in SocialGuide, a social media startup that measures social media data for TV programs, in November.

Nielsen last collaborated with Twitter in October in an attempt to measure the effectiveness of promoted tweets, first introduced in 2010. If successful, the new ratings will give Twitter new data to show to advertisers looking for a return on investments on their platform.

Steve Hasker, president of global media products and advertiser solutions at Nielsen, described the new partnership in a press statement as “a significant step forward for the industry.” The new data likely will be closely watched by advertisers hoping to capitalize on “second screen” users, or viewers who turn to computers and smartphones to discuss television in real time. Hasker’s statement promises a “syndicated-standard metric around the reach of the TV conversation on Twitter,” though it was light on the details of how this metric will be achieved.

Nielsen has been measuring audience size for television shows since the 1950s using two methods: “Viewer diaries” and small devices connected to television sets. Both methods extrapolate metrics from a sample. The company last adapted its ratings to accommodate shifts in viewing technology in 2005 by measuring the usage of digital video recordings like TiVo.

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Hazel Sheffield is a journalist and filmmaker based in London. She is a former CJR fellow and business editor of the Independent.