Can Twitter Launch a Ratings Avalanche? #notsureaboutthat

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(from Sports Business Journal, April 8, 2013) During the U.S. men’s national soccer game versus Costa Rica in the extreme weather, March 22, Twitter feeds across the world were consumed with talk of the game. Tweets by fans and ESPN’s production were being retweeted hundreds of times.

On this day soccer was clearly leading in the Twitter world, while going up against the end of the NCAA 64th round of the tournament. Mike Stolty, from ESPN, even tweeted about the competition, not between US, Costa Rica, or any of the NCAA games, but about the scoreboard between the trending of USA/Costa Rica versus NCAA, noting soccer was in the lead.

The exposure of the trend leads question to how do Twitter feeds actually represent viewing? According to ratings, only 857,000 viewers were watching the U.S.A soccer game. The NCAA tournament, while not generating as many twitter topics, produced 11 times more TV viewers, at 9 million. It seems the answer is that twitter does not represent viewing standing.

However, Nielsen Company, a leading global information and measurement company for market research, developed a study posing this same question. Statistics revealed there indeed was a correlation between Twitter and TV ratings. Artie Bulgrin, ESPN’s Senior Vice President, agrees that Twitter does have an effect on who is tuning in at that very moment, to check out what everyone is talking about. He stated, “There was cause and effect but probably not enough to move the ratings needle.”

ESPN and other TV executives believe television has a much bigger influence on Twitter than Twitter has on TV. Events on TV are simply emphasized on Twitter.