Survey: TV Watchers Are Antisocial

The Council for Research Excellence, a Nielsen-funded group that does in-depth research on how Americans use media that is shared with its member broadcasters, advertisers, publishers and social media companies, released the results of a new study on April 10th. The study indicates that Americans are not nearly as active on social media as social media platforms suggests.

The council surveyed 1,665 respondents, ages 15 to 54, selected to be representative of the online population. The participants used a mobile app to report any time they saw, heard or communicated something about prime-time TV shows over the course of 21 days last fall, as the new season’s lineup of TV shows made their debuts.

Only 16 percent of the survey respondents said they had used social media while watching TV during prime time. And less than half of the people using social media were actually discussing the show they were watching.

Facebook was by far the most popular social network for people chatting during shows, used by about 11.4 percent of TV watchers, compared with 3.3 percent for Twitter.

The research findings contradict the notion — peddled heavily by Twitter and Facebook in their pitches to producers — that conversations on Twitter and Facebook are a big factor driving people to tune into TV shows.


From the perspective of a TV broadcast company executive or producer, how relevant is it to you that tv viewers are not using social to discuss your shows while viewing the shows themselves?

Does having users follow your shows on social and comment on or interact with them provide enough value to you?


7 thoughts on “Survey: TV Watchers Are Antisocial

  1. From the perspective of a TV broadcast company executive or producer, I think TV viewers using social to discuss your shows while watching reflect their attitude on your show. As more and more people are engaging in social media, their attitudes about things happen in daily life will be showed on their social media more or less. If they like your show, you may post it in social media. If they don’t like it, they may also post.

    As a heavy social media user, if I like a TV show, I would like to post my idea about the show on my social media and discuss with my friends. If my friends post they like a TV show on Facebook, I would definitely watch it. Word of mouth is very influential.

  2. I agree that word of mouth is very influential, and I am also more like to watch a show if it’s recommended by someone I trust.

    For the last few years, we’ve heard a lot about how the Nielsen rating system is now an imperfect measure TV audiences – it hasn’t caught up to DVR, Hulu, etc. As a result, TV broadcast companies are looking for ways to measure engagement with their shows and Facebook and Twitter have stepped up as measurement tools.

  3. Though I do think the study has merit and raises some interesting questions, I think scaling out a sample size of 1665 people to come to the conclusion that people ARENT using social to talk about TV is not accurate – the sample size here is way too small.

    If we scale these numbers out, I’m sure that 15% (11.4 percent on FB and 3.3 percent for Twitter, from the study) of however many million viewers a particular show has is still a decent amount of exposure. This, coupled with the fact that using social media is relatively inexpensive, would make me want to continue to use and monitor these platforms if i were a TV broadcast company executive or producer.

    As long as the press is for the most part positive press, I would think any user commenting on my shows and using social to connect with others about my shows is desirable. When you take the network effect into account, that 15% can turn into 50! You also have to take into consideration that content can be shared after the show as well, so while people might not tune in at that moment or for that episode, social can help broadcast the greater message for the near future.

  4. I feel as though it is not as important for social media users to watch a show at the same time they are utilizing social media. I personally find the interaction to be a distraction.I am also not sure how much social media adds to the viewing experience. i think it is very important for viewers to utilize social media after the show has concluded to discuss the content of the show, surprises, what you think will happen the following week, etc. I find most people post to their facebook and/or twitter accounts after the show has concluded.
    I find reading social media posts during a show to also be “spoilers”. Some people think differently, have different insight, and/or know more than others. I would prefer to not have the show that I am watching be spoiled because I am watching the trends in social media about the show.

  5. “The research findings contradict the notion — peddled heavily by Twitter and Facebook in their pitches to producers — that conversations on Twitter and Facebook are a big factor driving people to tune into TV shows.”

    I can’t say I’m surprised that either company is overstating their influence- such is often the nature of trying to sell something! At the end of the day, advertisers are concerned with eyeballs. So long as people are spending a considerable amount of time on social media, advertisers – TV shows or otherwise – will want to occupy space there.

    “Only 6.8 percent of the respondents said that something on a social network pushed them to tune into a new prime time show.”

    This is an interesting piece of data in its own right, but perhaps understates the utility of social media. From my own experience, if I notice a number of my Facebook friends talking about a show, I’m more likely to give it a chance. Game of Thrones is one example- I didn’t tune in for it as a new show, but people continued discussing it, proving it had staying power, and I eventually wanted to see for myself. I wasn’t hooked in the first few episodes, but because of the buzz, decided to keep watching anyway. Now, I’m a big fan of the series.

  6. I understand not wanting to be utilizing social media during an episode of a show, for fear that I will miss something. However, I also understand a TV executive hoping for hashtags from viewers. It is essentially free publicity for a show.

  7. Obviously TV content providers want people talking about their show on social media because it’s essentially free advertising for the show but if people are doing it during commercials (when most live tweeting and posting would happen) then those providers need to think about a few things. Huge amounts of revenue are tied to advertisers paying for commercial time. If people are posting on social media during commercial breaks, then people are not paying attention to the commercials (which companies are paying huge chunks of money for). Content providers and/or advertisers need to find a way to get in on the conversation if people are no longer paying attention during ads. This is certainly something all networks will be looking at in the coming years.

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