With reference to Kantar Media's recent study, MEC's Matthew Knowles analyses the extent to which the popularity of TV shows are reflected in the volume of viewers' tweets.

TV has always been fodder for conversations. Once upon a time, programmes were the mainstay of those water cooler moments or the journey to school – they probably still are, but for some there is no waiting until work or the school bell, their opinions and those of others must be sought and shared there and then.

Kantar Media's recent study into that relationship (A Year in the Life of TV & Twitter in the UK – published September 24th 2014) has brought about several intriguing observations, all of which highlight the fact that people love to talk about television online, with around 40% of all peak time UK Twitter traffic related to TV.

Over a one year period of analysis, between June 1st 2013 and May 31st 2014, Kantar Media identified over 110 million TV-related tweets from over 13 million unique users. These are especially noteworthy figures as one considers the study's exclusion of Twitter activity related to live sport and news programmes.

Twitter TV activity correlates with audience size at a very broad level. TV shows with the largest volume of Twitter TV activity also tend to have the highest audiences. Albeit not always, certain shows with lesser audiences can gain disproportionate levels of TV Twitter activity. A prime example is ITV's The Jeremy Kyle Show, which ranks between ITV's Coronation Street and BBC1's Sherlock in terms of TV Twitter activity (see chart), despite being a daytime TV show.

(Click image to enlarge)
Source: Kantar Media, 2014

Of the aforementioned 110 million TV related tweets, it is apparent that tweets are far more focused on programmes shown on the top 10 TV channels, with just 11.4% of the tweets related to broadcasts outside of these channels across the period, despite these channels amounting to 38.7% of all TV viewing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, ITV and BBC1 were by far the two most popular TV channels for generating conversations, having been responsible for a combined total of 37.6% of all TV viewing. ITV's figures are of a particular interest; responsible for 16% of TV viewing, a substantial 25.3% of TV-related tweets were nevertheless focused on ITV-hosted programmes – comfortably more than any other TV channel. This can be explained in part by the popularity of its flagship show, The X Factor, which enjoyed a particular dominance over the Twittersphere during the period, inspiring 8.6% (9.4 million) of all tweets, despite being on air for only four months (September – December).

It is also worth noting that E4 and ITV2 were responsible for a considerably greater proportion of TV-related tweets (8.6% and 7.3% respectively) than their corresponding shares of television viewing (1.9% and 2.7%). This can once more be attributed to the performance of individual marquee television shows, in this instance, E4's Made in Chelsea and ITV2's The Only Way is Essex, both of which actively encourage participation from their audiences with a programme hashtag.

Overall, it is fair to comment that Twitter share does correlate, in broad terms, with channel audience share across a wide time period. That said, it is less likely to correlate on a week-by-week basis. Individual, stand-out shows can have a huge impact on the share of TV-related tweets in any given week for TV channels – more so than any related changes in corresponding television viewing levels. For example, in the week beginning February 17th 2014, the ‘Brit Awards' generated over 4.1 million TV-related tweets from nearly 959,000 unique users, forming the vast majority of that week's 5.4 million total. A significant statistic indeed, especially when TV-related tweets for the weeks either side of the Brit awards totalled at around 1 million each week.

The top 30 TV series, relative to volume of tweets, were found to account for 50% of all measured UK Twitter activity, despite equating to only 9.1% of all UK television viewing by volume. The individual figures for each of the top 30 are illustrated in the chart above.

And so, the clear link between Twitter and TV confirms the usefulness of Twitter as an insightful media planning tool. Additionally, the report highlights the continued power of TV in an increasingly digital media environment, illustrating the clear benefit of combining digital with more traditional media platforms.

More on Warc: