The bigger TV story, beyond ratings
Call it the buzz factor: All the chatter across the internet
November 9, 2011
Television ratings will always be important, but these days they don’t always reflect the real popularity of a show. Viewers can now keep up with their favorite shows online or with video on demand, and the amount of social media buzz that a show generates can be almost as important as whether it’s gaining in ratings. That explains why the shows that are ranked the highest by General Sentiment, an analysis company that monitors online news, blogs, tweets and other social networking sources, aren’t always the highest-rated programs. General Sentiment ranks shows on both buzz and fans’ emotional attachment to them. In the company’s report for the final week of October, for example, NBC’s low-rated spy comedy “Chuck” actually generated more buzz than an episode of “Two and a Half Men,” the No. 1 scripted series on television. And the CW’s “Vampire Diaries” and “Gossip Girl” out-buzz most other broadcast shows, despite their comparatively small audiences. Dylan Coughtrey, research analyst at General Sentiment, talks to Media Life about why buzz matters, which shows rank the highest on buzz and emotional ties, and how that correlates to ratings.
What’s the difference between the General Sentiment Involvement Index and the EBQ? How do different shows score highly on these?
The General Sentiment Involvement Index uses measures of volume, sentiment and reach to generate a single score that is able to quantify the level of buzz surrounding a TV show or other entity online. EBQ scores are generated using online survey data and seek to quantify the level of emotional commitment audiences have for the shows.
In effect, involvement measures the amount of buzz a show is generating at any given time, whereas EBQ scores measure the ability of shows to hold key audiences over time.
What is the value of a program that scores highly in one of these categories but not so highly in the ratings?
Shows that score highly in these categories have demonstrated a few key characteristics that high ratings cannot provide.
For instance, if a show maintains high involvement scores it means that viewers are actively talking about the show online. It has managed to connect with this audience at a deep enough level as to instigate them to tell other people about it.
This not only serves to increase your audience over time, but also demonstrates which shows offer prime advertising opportunities.
Why is it that a show like “Chuck,” which actually had its lowest-rated premiere rating ever, can rank much higher than a hit like “Two and a Half Men” and what does that tell the networks?
One thing that throws a wrench in last week’s data is that “Chuck” aired its season premiere. Historically, highly anticipated shows such as this generate a great deal of buzz, both because the networks are working to attract both new and old viewers and fans of the program are excited about its return. Involvement for “Chuck” may fall as the season progresses and the initial excitement wears off.
You also have to consider, however, that “Chuck” premiered against game seven of the World Series. That makes it likely that a number of viewers watched the premiere online or with DVR equipment after the show aired. Nielson ratings don’t [always] catch these viewers, but GS involvement does.
“Two and a Half Men” is a hit show, but since the online explosion that was Charlie Sheen, viewers have very little to say about it online. It also has a slightly older demographic–like most CBS shows–that is less active in social media.
This gives some validation to what the network already knows about the show’s demographic but also means some shows with a smaller audience will have a larger reaction to plot/character developments or advertising campaigns.
Which new shows are ranking highest in GS involvement and why?
The highest-ranking new show by GS involvement is “The X Factor.” This is due to the innate ability of reality shows to generate audience participation. “The X Factor” in particular is using social media to its advantage, recently instituting a Twitter voting system.
Other new shows that have done well are “Revenge” (ABC) and “The Secret Circle” (CW). Despite relatively low viewership, the CW has a history of producing shows with a great deal of audience involvement. They are able to quickly grab viewers and make them excited about the show.
Which new shows are ranking highest in the EBQ?
The top three new shows by EBQ rankings are “Revenge,” “Terra Nova” (Fox) and “Unforgettable” (CBS). These shows have done well because they have hooked audiences enough that they are already displaying a lasting commitment to the series.
What shows do particularly well among young viewers (adults 18-34) but not quite as well among older ones? Why do they stand out, and is it enough to earn a renewal for a bubble show?
Because the GS involvement score is based on online discussion, we don’t differentiate by demographic. We can make some assumptions, however, based on which programs have the most discussion in sources such as Twitter and social media, as primarily younger viewers use them. They stand out because of their ability to generate new viewers through audience created content online.
Why is it important for networks to look beyond ratings and consider these other factors when building their schedules? Has this become more important in recent years?
As media consumption has changed, looking beyond the ratings has become vastly important. While real-time viewers are still a crucial part of the entertainment system, more and more people are using the internet and DVR equipment to view their favorite programs.
Social media has become the place where people express opinions on everything, from the shows they watch to the products they use. With such an amazing resource available to them, networks would be throwing away a huge opportunity to not take advantage of what it has to offer.
What differences do you see between men’s and women’s most favored shows?
Once again, General Sentiment does not use demographic information when generating scores for various programs. We, however, do not see huge differences in discussion levels or involvement between shows with primarily male or female viewers.
The best thing about using social media as a source of content is that everyone is involved and is putting their honest opinions out for the world to see. Whatever the audience, nearly every show can glean useful information from the information to be found online.
Why do “Dexter,” “Project Runway” and “The Daily Show,” which have smaller audiences than some of the other shows on cable, rank so highly on your list?
Shows that rank highly on our list have an audience that has demonstrated a strong emotional connection to the program and are actively conveying their opinions to others. Shows with large audiences can and often do rank very highly by our metrics.
A large audience is not required to generate buzz online, however. What is [required] is a program that connects with audiences and makes them want to tell others about it.
“Dexter” has been one of the most original shows on television for some time. It has done well, with a highly committed and enthusiastic audience. They actively try to get others to watch the show.
“The Daily Show” retains viewers by providing news in a way that people can digest. It is highly quotable and gives people something to talk about.
These are a few of the elements that lead to a strong online presence and can make smaller shows valuable in a way that large shows, with no buzz, are not.
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