Nielsen is set to publish its first report with TV rankings based on data from Twitter. The report, which comes out on Monday according to the Wall Street Journal, will look at the number of tweets about a show and the size of the audience that sees them.
This is an important move for Twitter ahead of its IPO because it sees TV-related data as an important part of its monetization plans. Providing data about TV viewer engagement is also a key part of Twitter’s rivalry with Facebook, which has been trying to distract from the Nielsen-Twitter partnership by presenting itself as an alternative source of potentially valuable information to networks.
Facebook announced last week that it will begin sending a weekly report to major broadcasters in the U.S. detailing user activity around TV programs on the social network. Meanwhile, Facebook is expanding access to its Public Feed API and Keyword Insights API to 10 television networks in eight countries, says a report in the Wall Street Journal. Facebook rolled out early access to a few American TV and web media companies, allowing them to view public posts that contain certain words, and see anonymized demographic insights about the authors of public and private posts mentioning a word.
As Sarah Perez pointed out, however, despite having 1.15 billion monthly active users compared to Twitter’s 200 million, Facebook’s inclusion of Likes of TV-related posts as TV buzz makes it tough to compare its data to Twitter’s which only counts tweets, replies, and retweets.
In this particular competition, Twitter is currently ahead of Facebook with its Nielsen partnership, TV Ad Targeting programs, tools like Twitter Amplify, which allows broadcasters to embed short video clips in tweets in near real-time, and an experimental feature that will allow users to playback TV-related tweets when they watch a show after it originally aired. One potential drawback for Twitter, however, is that its user base may be too small to convince network executives of its data validity.
No matter who ultimately wins the battle to become the preferred “second screen” app of viewers, Twitter and Facebook’s efforts to provide data to broadcasters is a boon for TV lovers because it helps boost shows that have a relatively small audience, but deep cultural impact and engaged audience. This may convince TV networks to spend more advertising dollars reaching the younger audiences that use Twitter. It could also influence their thinking when it comes to deciding which shows to renew or cancel. Users who are engaged enough while watching the show to talk about it online may also be paying more attention to ads aired during their favorite TV shows. (Just imagine if “My So-Called Life,” “Arrested Development” or “Veronica Mars,” all shows with fervent followers but low viewer numbers, had been able to benefit from the online buzz generated by their legions of devoted fans).