3412239865_995fa95581_bI have a confession to make. When I’m asked how I like to spend my free time, I tend to hem and haw. “Riding my bike,” or “reading up on the day’s news” are the answers I usually give, and those are true. But deep down inside, I know that the truth is the box that sits in my living room.


I have an unhealthy love for, and obsession with, television.

“The Blacklist.” “Sons of Anarchy.” “The Walking Dead.” “Justified.” “The Americans.” “Fargo.” “Mad Men.” “Game of Thrones.”

When I stop and think about it, I’m a bit horrified at just how much time I’ve spent watching television. Add sports into the mix, and I’m seriously embarrassed.

A big part of why I enjoy TV so much is the camaraderie I get from tweeting along with the shows as they air. It’s so cool to see your feed explode when (GoT SPOILERS) Ned Stark loses his head or (Fargo SPOILERS) Gus shoots Malvo. My experience is that Twitter has become very intertwined with primetime television.

So when NBC Universal Research Chief Alan Wurtzel had this to say about Twitter and the Olympics, I was shocked.

Just 19% of Olympic viewers posted about the games on social media, according to NBC. What does that mean, though?

Keep in mind, the East Coast was 9 hours behind Sochi. So, a hockey game being played at 5 p.m. in Sochi was airing at 8 a.m. in New York. Saturday and Sunday, you’d get some folks tuning in. Monday through Friday? Not so much.

So let’s start there. It feels like NBC is comparing apples to oranges. Your programming has to be live in order for social media to drive it. If I already know the outcome of the game, I’m not likely to watch the entire thing.

How can you expect social media to drive ratings when social media likely spoiled the outcome hours earlier?!

I believe we’ve established that I think NBC’s full of it. Do I have any proof to back that up? Not particularly. Let’s try and fill in the blanks with what I have: a boatload of circumstantial evidence and lots of tweets.

The next time you flip on your TV, check out the bottom right hand corner where the network logo (known as a bug in the industry) lives. Many, many, many, many shows have their own hashtag located there. AMC does it for their shows, so do NBC and ABC. I’ll admit to not watching any shows on CBS, so I can’t speak intelligently about that network.

My point is this:

If social media has zero effect on drawing eyeballs to their shows, why are the networks (NBC included) so intent on promoting them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.?

I think it’s because social media does increase ratings; Nielsen and the networks just haven’t figured out how to connect the dots just yet.

Social media IS impacting TV ratings.

35.6 million tweets were sent during the Germany/Argentina World Cup Final. Were those folks listening on the radio? Doubtful. “The Walking Dead” season finale saw more than one million tweets sent out about it. Interestingly enough, the Kid’s Choice Awards saw 2.1 million tweets that same night.

My bottom line: people are posting on social media while they’re watching TV, be it sports or scripted shows (or “unscripted” shows like “Survivor”). Social media and TV are becoming evermore intertwined.

Networks would be wise to learn how to monetize all the word of mouth they’re getting on social media while their shows are airing, and do it fast.

Image: David Ross via Flickr CC 2.0