Can Social Media decide the fate of TV Shows?
Not yet, but maybe some day. While a lot of social media buzz for an upcoming show should at least pique the interests of advertisers, this attention hasn’t always resulted in high ratings for the next hit show.
For example, according to Ad Age the most buzzed about new show this year via social media is the CW’s “Arrow,” even though CW series perform to historically low numbers. NBC’s “Revolution” would be another hit due to a massive social media buzz, even though it follows “The Voice,” which has had declining numbers. However, just because popularity on social media hasn’t necessarily translated to high ratings on television, it doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.
Social Media Works For Some Television…
For event television, like sports, talent or awards shows, social media seems to work relatively well at driving viewers to watch. This may be due to the fact that these shows ask for the viewers thoughts and opinions, or cause them to be outspoken about what is happening onscreen in front of them. People like to be part of the event itself and the combination of watching the show and using social media at the same time helps this to happen. However, the numbers here are still skewed. For example, according to Neilsen ratings in 2012, the MTV Video Music awards had more social media buzz than any event in history, though their ratings were half of what they were the prior year. However, this may be due to the fact that MTV chooses to run the awards show repeatedly after it airs.
…But Not for Other Types of TV
The aforementioned examples like “Arrow” and “Revolution” may have the best social media numbers right now, but series that aren’t even close to them in social media buzz will probably beat them in overall ratings. This is because most of the people using social media, at this point, are the younger generations, who are easily distracted or find ways to watch the shows they want to watch on their own time. The older generations, the ones who tune into CBS on a nightly basis for two to three hours at a time, don’t use social media.
Because of this, it’s hard to tell if it can be a predictor of what television shows will work and which ones won’t—at least at this point. A few decades from now however, when younger generations are older yet still using social media in their everyday lives, it may be more accurate. In other words, we’ll just have to wait until next season to see what really works.