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Twitter Lets You See the Future of TV (Ratings)

More tweets = more eyeballs.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Twitter keeps trying to convince the TV guys that they should work with Twitter. Here’s their newest pitch: Data from Twitter partner Nielsen, which indicates that TV shows that generated a lot of Twitter activity before they premiered last fall also generated good ratings.

Like lots of Twitter + TV data, this one makes intuitive sense, especially to people who use Twitter. In this case, Nielsen says that by using a data set that included TV promotions and Twitter activity, it was able to accurately predict five of the top 10 TV show premieres last fall.

The most important factor, Nielsen said, was how much these TV shows were promoted on TV. But after it factored in Twitter activity and the type of network the shows were on, Nielsen says its predictions’ accuracy increased from 48 percent to 65 percent.

Chart time!

Wait. So isn’t Nielsen really saying that shows that have lots of Tweets also have lots of ratings?

Nope! “To be clear, the findings do not necessarily mean that Twitter TV activity causes larger audience sizes,” writes the unnamed author of the Nielsen post.

That’s important, because that was a key thrust for Twitter for a bit, but Dick Costolo and company are de-emphasizing that argument now. Instead of saying that Twitter can drive eyeballs to shows, the Twitter folks are more comfortable making the case for other benefits for the TV guys. Like more engagement, or higher recall of shows (and commercials).

So in this case, they’re saying that TV advertisers could use Twitter data to get a better handle on the way TV shows will perform in advance — and, in a less direct way, telling TV programmers to make sure they get a lot of people Tweeting about their shows.

This article originally appeared on

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