I’m always up for modernizing Nielsen ratings, but this new measurement the organization is rolling out isn’t exactly what I was looking for:
Nielsen Twitter TV Rating will measure the total audience for social TV activity, including participants and users who are exposed to the activity. According to Nielsen, this will provide the “precise size of the audience and effect of social TV to TV programming.”
“The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating is a significant step forward for the industry, particularly as programmers develop increasingly captivating live TV and new second-screen experiences, and advertisers create integrated ad campaigns that combine paid and earned media,” Steve Hasker, president of global media products and advertiser solutions at Nielsen, said in a statement. “As a media measurement leader we recognize that Twitter is the preeminent source of real-time television engagement data.”
According to Nielsen, the Twitter TV Rating will serve to complement Nielsen’s existing TV ratings. The tool is described as “giving TV networks and advertisers the real-time metrics required to understand TV audience social activity.”
I get that networks want to see what kind of buzz their shows are generating. But it’s a measure of real-time engagement, which is the same measurement that’s been rendered so much less useful by the rise of DVRs and high-quality, legal streaming sites. And as anyone who has been dismayed by the gap between, say, the volume of Twitter conversation about a cult sitcom like Community and the actual ratings for that show, I think it would ultimately be much more useful to the survival of beloved but low-rated programs to measure the real viewership of those programs more comprehensively. To incorporate more data, Nielsen would have to trust self-reporting from legal streaming services like Hulu, and would have to work out windows for those reports to be delivered and combined with DVR data. But it would be much more useful for networks, and for those of us who love shows where we fear enthusiasm for them isn’t being captured by the current ratings system, especially those like the CW with younger audiences who are watching more television streaming and on mobile devices, to be able to sell package ad deals across platforms, than to know what people talk about Twitter on any given night.