NEW YORK: The strength of Twitter's relationship with television has been established by a new study, which shows that spikes in activity on the microblog reflect stronger programme ratings.

Nielsen, the measurement firm, and SocialGuide, the analytics group, evaluated over 140 broadcast and cable programmes in the US, and compared these with a number of key variables in order to gauge the strength of the relationship of Twitter with ratings.

It found that, for premiere episodes, an 8.5% increase in Twitter buzz was associated with a 1% increase in TV program ratings for 18-34 year olds.

In addition, a 14% increase in Twitter volume was associated with a 1% increase in TV ratings for 35-49 year olds, reflecting a stronger relationship between Twitter and TV for younger audiences.

The study further found that Twitter's correlation to TV ratings strengthened as the season went on. An increase in Twitter chatter of 4.2% and 8.4% was associated with a 1% increase in ratings for 18-34 year olds and 35-49 year olds, respectively.

Moreover, by midseason Twitter was responsible for more of the variance in ratings for 18-34 year olds than advertising spend.

"We expected to see a correlation between Twitter and TV ratings, but this study quantifies the strength of that relationship," said Andrew Somosi , CEO of SocialGuide.

"We see three key factors. While prior year rating accounts for the lion's share of the variability in TV ratings, Twitter's presence as a top three influencer tells us that Tweeting about live TV is likely a significant indicator of program engagement."

Mike Hess, executive vice president of media analytics for Nielsen, said the while the study had not proved causality, "the correlation we uncovered is significant and we will continue our research to deepen the industry's understanding of this relationship."

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff