News Column

TV and tweeting: Welcome to the multiscreen world

October 19, 2013


Oct. 19--Alia Dickerson of Philadelphia admits it.

"I like to tweet when Big Brother is on," she says via Facebook. "Most ppl I know do it mainly during reality tv shows like Catfish. Also, ppl like to create memes based on show episodes and post them on Instagram."

Don Lafferty of Philadelphia sees it in his children: "Between Twitter and text, my 19- and 21-year-old daughters engage in concurrent media channels during all their favorite, traditionally broadcast, TV shows, in fact, even when something can be DVR'ed, they prefer to watch live so they don't miss out" on the multiscreening media "because it's the 'fun' part of the main media event. All red carpet events, award shows, The Bachelor, The Voice, [Dancing With the Stars], Teen Mom . . . the more bizarre the content, the more fun."

Tweeting while TVing? Millions do, and millions more are joining in all the time. This is the multiscreen moment. And now come statistics about who, what, and when -- and the TV industry and advertisers are very interested.

As part of an online forum, Ruth McGivern of Philadelphia multiscreens during Project Runway and The Walking Dead (with more than 500,000 others).

June Kinoshita of Waltham, Mass., says she's "guilty as charged. Red Sox games, American Idol, presidential debates, Downton Abbey . . . It's like sitting on a living room sofa with dozens of friends and strangers all providing running commentary, much of it as entertaining (or more so) as what's on the screen."

A living room -- and, for more and more sports fans, one big man-cave.

Philip Heron of Oxford says he and his buddies tweet maniacally during "Eagles games. Our live chats during the games have become huge. No one just watches the game on TV anymore. Everyone is now on Twitter, making like color analysts."

Folks have multiscreened since there was more than one screen to use. Now we know they're doing it more and more. Sean Casey is founder of Nielsen's SocialGuide, which tracks how many people tweet while watching shows. Since June, his company has issued a weekly Top 10 tweeted shows.

"This is a consumer phenomenon," says Casey, a son of Newtown Square. "And it's growing super fast. If you compare the second quarter of this year to the same period in 2012, you see 263 million TV-related tweets, compared to 190 million a year ago, up 38 percent. The number of unique tweeters" -- people actually authoring tweets, because, after all, each tweeter can tweet a lot -- "is 19 million, compared to 15 million a year ago, a 24 percent increase. It's large and growing."

It's not just tweeters and tweets. It's also "impressions," the number who see the tweets.

For the week of Oct. 7 to 13, Walking Dead beasted it. Its AMC season premiere was the number-one tweeted TV show. Besides a show-record 16.1 million viewers on one screen, it spurred about 570,000 viewers to send out 1.172 million tweets, seen at 7.491 million other websites, for a grand total of about 67 million impressions. Think: expanded audience.

It's too early to assign dollars and cents value to it all. That may come next year, when SocialGuide starts sending out the real gold: demographic data on location, age, sex, and income. "Those are the measurements," says Casey, "the industry and the advertisers really are interested in." If the prevalence of competition and reality TV shows suggests "younger" and "female," well, we'll know as of spring.

The measurement window is three hours before, then during, then three hours after the show. A lot happens post-show. Mitchell Sommers of Lancaster writes that "the instant the show is over, I start maniacally looking for recaps and commentary of what I just saw."

Philadelphia radio personality Loraine Ballard finally caught up with the ABC show Scandal, watching it on her DVR. And she just had to tell everybody about it via Twitter: "Just caught up with #Scandal which was like eating a big fat tub of Rocky Road. Ridiculous plot and I love every improbable minute of it."

Said McGivern: "It's SO much more fun than watching alone!"

Tweeting, messaging, or posting to others watching the same show "does create a sense of community," Ballard says. "You can react and respond to both people you know, and people you don't, who have funny, snarky, clever, or witty responses to what's going on. More and more, it's part of the watching experience."

And, as they have for generations, a number of people turn to other media. Just ask Catherine DePino of Langhorne: "I read books and articles sometimes, especially during commercials!"

Top 10 Tweeted TV Shows

Week of Oct. 7-13

1. The Walking Dead (AMC): 7.49 million unique audience*, 1.17 million tweets; 65.9 million impressions**

2. Glee (Fox): 5.17 million; 822,000 tweets; 44.6 million impressions

3. American Horror Story: Coven (FX): 4.62 million; 435,600 tweets; 25.0 million impressions

4. Catfish (MTV): 3.54 million; 743,600 tweets; 39.0 million impressions

5. The X Factor (Oct. 9) (Fox): 2.39 million; 422,900 tweets; 13.1 million impressions

6. Scandal (ABC): 2.13 million; 327,500 tweets; 17.6 million impressions

7. The Voice (NBC): 1.97 million; 115,000 tweets; 4.7 million impressions

8. Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC): 1.94 million; 57,100 tweets; 7.2 million impressions

9. The X Factor (Oct. 7) (Fox): 1.86 million; 191,000 tweets; 5.7 million impressions

10. Dancing With the Stars (ABC): 1.66 million; 43,500 tweets; 4.4 million impressions

--- Twitter accounts that saw one or more different tweets about a show

*--- The number of times any tweets about a show were seen

Source: SocialGuide

215-854-4406 @jtimpane


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