Video Advertising Bureau study finds TV drives 79% of trending topics on Twitter in prime-time

VAB conducts new #TVisSocial study finding TV drives Twitter trending topics

Live television is not a dead medium, despite the buzz out there, so finds a new report by the Video Advertising Bureau. The report, #TVisSocial, found that TV programs are buzzing on Twitter during primetime hours, accounting for as much as 87% of trending topics on a given night.

The study followed primetime Twitter topics for a month this past fall and its findings counter the mounting misperception that social media is separate from live TV audiences. It also amplifies earlier findings that 77% of TV is watched live.

“TV is a real-time, shared experience for most viewers,” said Danielle DeLauro, SVP/strategic sales insights at the VAB. “With most viewers watching live, and lighting up Twitter with comments on programs as they’re happening, there’s a collective attention that is unmatched among media options. Even in the home stretch of a contentious election that called unprecedented attention to social media, TV content dominated the online conversations.”

The VAB analyzed trending topics on the social network every night for four weeks, from October 10 to November 6, monitoring four points in time every night, starting 15 minutes past the beginning of each hour (8:15, 9:15, 10:15, and 11:15) because trending accumulates and changes. Overall, TV accounted for 64% to 88% – an average of 79% – of top trending topics in primetime, with 97 ad-supported TV programs and 437 unique TV topics from over 46 networks trending in the top 10. Fully 47 ad-supported TV topics trending number one during the period. On average, more than seven ad-supported TV programs and 15 ad-supported TV topics trended in the top 10 at some point every night. On some nights, as many as 12 different ad-supported TV programs trended in the top 10 throughout primetime hours.

Jason Wiese, vice president strategic insights for the VAB, calls himself a heavy Twitter user and also said they used that platform for this study because of its real-time engagement and also because it’s used heavily by millennials. He and his crew went into the study with an open mind, not quite sure what they would find.

“Our general hypothesis was; people are going online en mass to talk about television’s big moments,” said Wiese.

He and his team approached it like a regular user going on the trending topics page. They would then screen shot the results at the times they checked and type it into a chart.

“It basically was an Excel chart listing the top 10 trending topics four times a night for four weeks,” said Wiese, who added that their methods were “old school.”

So what were people tweeting about? It wasn’t just the big moments, as they initially thought. It was a continued conversation that was going on. Perhaps not surprisingly, live sports accounted for 68% of ad-supported TV topics trending, while entertainment generated 25% and news prompted 6%. At least one entertainment show trended almost every night and when TV news on the election made headlines, it trended high. On the night of the third presidential debate, October 19, the official hashtag #debatenight trended first throughout primetime, while nine different related topics trended in the top 10.

There were shows that “owned” the Twitter conversation. Since this was during the fall, Monday Night Football was a powerhouse during the beginning of the week, while entertainment shows like American Horror Story and Empire took over on Wednesday.

The study compared competing platforms on how many trending programs each generated over the four weeks. Ad-supported TV led with 53, while pay TV registered three, and PPV, PBS and Twitch each scored one. Importantly, no SVOD original series or YouTube channel generated a single top-10 trending topic.

“Primetime TV dominates the social conversation and nothing else comes anywhere near the volume or impact,” said Wiese. “Impressively, much of this real-time activity is being driven by millennials whose love of TV content fuels continual conversations every night of every week.”

Ultimately, the study is a snapshot that helps dispel some of the myths around [television] viewing, like people aren’t watching live TV anymore, TV’s losing scale…the abundance of TV viewing is still live. Twitter is a very heavy Millennial social media tool,” said Wiese, who added that Millennial’s are fueling these online, immediate conversations about television.

“This is just another piece in the overarching story in that there’s still a lot of live TV viewing going on.”

He pointed out that this survey was done during the heat of the election cycle, but other television topics, like sports and entertainment, trended higher than political news. When politics did come up, it was usually as a reaction of something that happened during a televised press conference.

The VAB plans to do this study again during one of the summer months to see what is trending then, and they may incorporate Facebook as well. Ultimately, this continuing analysis shows that live television isn’t going anywhere for a while.

The #TVisSocial study can be downloaded here.

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