One of the big pitches Twitter has been making to TV networks is that its users’ penchant for tweeting about their favourite shows while they watch them actually convinces other people on Twitter to stop what they’re doing and tune in.
To this end, the platform has been successful in convincing networks to integrate Twitter hashtags into their on-screen programming in the hopes of driving chatter that will ultimately bring more viewers to their shows.
But now, NBCUniversal head of research Alan Wurtzel is saying that’s all bunk. He told The Financial Times that after looking at social media activity around more than 1,500 hours of Winter Olympics programming, NBCUniversal found that just 19% of Olympic viewers talked about the games on social media.
Most damning of all, Wurtzel said TV ratings were more likely to increase social media chatter than the other way around.
“I am saying the emperor wears no clothes,” he told The Financial Times. “It is what it is. These are the numbers.”
Wurtzel’s research is slightly at odds with a report conducted by Nielsen this past summer that found Twitter chatter can on some occasions lead to a ratings increase.
At the time, Twitter chief operating officer Ali Rowghani said the report substantiated what its TV partners had been telling it for years: that Twitter drives ratings for live television.
“As the world’s preeminent real-time social communication medium, Twitter is a complementary tool for broadcasters to engage their audience, drive conversation about their programming, and increase tune-in,” Rowghani said in August.
While Wurtzel’s remarks certainly aren’t good news for Twitter, the TV conversations that occur on the platform are still highly valuable, as they offer marketers an opportunity to reinforce their messages by showing Twitter ads to people who are talking about a show they are already advertising on.
What will be interesting to see, though, is whether NBCUniversal programs change how they integrate social media hashtags into their on-screen programming.
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