TV Sweeps Season Could Be A Semantic Season Too

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If it’s February, the networks are getting ready for the Sweeps. Viewers of NCIS can expect to be treated to a never-before-seen scene that’s being Twitter-campaigned under #NCISLostScene. Modern Family fans will get to see Phil and Claire reprise their Valentine’s Day roles as Clive and Juliana (two word reminder – trenchcoat, escalator).  And Two-and-a-Half Men’s Charlie Sheen may enter rehab (oh, wait, sorry, that’s in real life).

Well, the Semantic Web refuses to be left out of such fun. While Nielsen continues its long-established work of monitoring TV viewing information to help programmers and advertisers with schedules and marketing dollars, sentiment analytics start-up General Sentiment is coming to the TV popularity contest with a new perspective. It has just released a report aimed at providing insight on “audience involvement and the strength of their ongoing commitment,” leveraging information from online social and news communities.

These market intelligence metrics from General Sentiment may not be a threat to traditional measurement means yet, but certainly they seem to merit consideration by programming and advertising honchos alike.

Especially when you consider that much of the input leading to these scores comes from some very attractive demographic segments, considering who’s in the social media world. Forty three percent of Twitter users, for example, and 52 percent of Facebook folks are in the key 18-to-34 year old age group (according to a recent analysis by online marketing agency Digital Surgeons).

General Sentiment’s prime-time TV audience evaluation report features its sentiment involvement score, which measures the discussion/word-of-mouth on social and news media about TV shows, including accounting for online sentiment, and its emotional bonding Q (EBQ) scores. That data measures the intensity of program devotion among “favorite” viewers for all regularly scheduled programs on broadcast and cable networks.

So, here’s a little insight into how the TV shows stack up:

— Ranked on a scale from 1 to 10 and indexed to track relative “involvement” performance against the average broadcast or cable program, and based on the September to December part of the broadcast season, CBS’ CSI comes up the winner in the Top 20 TV show set. It had an 8.1 Average Total Involvement Score, just ahead of Dancing With the Stars.

— Breaking that down a bit, CSI trumped the competition on the involvement index when looking at the Average News Score that draws from news media sources, but trailed Fox’s The Simpsons by a hair in the involvement index across social media sources.

— And, if you look at the Twitter involvement index alone, Family Guy leads second-place Dancing With the Stars and third-place CSI – and seventh place Simpsons.

— Emotionally speaking, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Fringe and The Big Bang Theory take the top EBQ ranks, with scores of 30 or higher. EBQ, as General Sentiment describes it, determines the program’s ability to hold onto its most important viewers over time – advertisers, are you listening?

— The comparison of the biggest winners and losers provides some interesting fodder, too. Among the top 20 TV shows, General Sentiment provides perspective on which shows experienced the strongest increases in Involvement as audiences became more attached to the shows, and which  have seen the largest decrease from week-to-week throughout the first half of the TV season. The latter shouldn’t be read as indicating that these are the worst shows on the air, the report says. But, it also adds, “these decreases constitute early warning signs, which indicate that viewers are losing interest and discussing these shows less online.” Advertisers, are you listening now?

The gainers include some new ones and some old (or older) standbys: School Pride; Scoundrels (although it sits at #20 of the top 20 rookie shows in terms of average total involvement score); The Good Wife, Body of Proof and 48 Hours Mystery. On the losing end of the Top 20: Plain Jane, Wife Swap, Bachelor Pad, Grey’s Anatomy (to which we can only say, “there is a season, turn, turn, turn…”) and a member of the NCIS franchise, NCIS Los Angeles.

There’s lots of valuable – and fun – stuff to read in this report, including confirmation that No Ordinary Family (#7 average total involvement scores for rookie shows) was a hit for ABC, with microblogs like Twitter generating the majority of conversation about the show.

Personally, I’ve got some mixed feelings about that show – I think it should be better than it actually is. But I have not added that perspective to my Twitter feed.

That said, isn’t it a good thing that General Sentiment has opened the analysis window for the TV and advertising powers-that-be, so that they can hear the unflaggingly democratic voices of the many, rather than just the  random and select Nielsen few?

Especially  for those TV shows that never have a chance to find their audience before they’re killed for lack of racking up the Nielsen ratings? And especially today when so many more of those shows are watched online to begin with?

CBS probably won’t mind, either — it had the most shows place in the top 20 to start with. 

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