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Must Tweet TV: Twitter Activity Can Help Predict Show Success

Fall is when all the big networks make big bets on new TV shows, promoting them heavily in every medium available. But does all that advertising actually make people watch? It turns out a good way to predict that is to look at the amount of Twitter activity surrounding a show in the weeks before its premiere. A study by Nielsen shows that, as you'd expect, shows with more promotion get bigger premiere audiences — but some do better than others, and adding Twitter data into the mix makes predicting those big winners easier.

This chart shows the actual size of 42 fall TV premieres and how they were predicted by Nielsen's model. In the orange circles were ones correctly identified ahead of time as being in the top 10. Nielsen

Viewers can go with their gut in guessing what's going to be worth watching, but advertisers and producers need to get it down to a science. Nielsen's technique explains about two-thirds of the variance in audience count, meaning there's still quite a bit of mystery around what makes a hit — and of course a lot of mentions on Twitter don't necessarily mean a show will have a big premiere. But together with other measures, it definitely can help identify big winners and losers weeks ahead of time.

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—Devin Coldewey