Facebook has begun tracking how its users engage with 45 primetime TV shows in the US, as the social network looks to rival Twitter in providing advertisers with real time viewer data.
The move will see Facebook sending weekly reports to the four largest US television networks from this week, providing a look at how much chatter their shows are causing on the social network.
The reports will contain how many “actions” such as likes, comments, or shares a TV episode has generated on Facebook and how many members took part in an action.
Facebook, which will not make the results generally available, will share the data reports with ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS, and a small number of select partners.
For example, according to Facebook, ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” recently yielded more than 1 million interactions from about 750,000 users. Meanwhile, the premiere of Fox’s freshman thriller “Sleepy Hollow” had more than 350,000 interactions. And for the series finale of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” Sunday, more than 3 million people generated more than 5.5 million interactions on Facebook.
Facebook is hoping the data will encourage users to spend ad dollars on social sites to support their shows.
For now, Facebook admits there are no clear conclusions TV networks can draw from the data. However, the potential audience synergies between social networks and TV are huge. According to Facebook, as many as 100 million U.S. users are active on the social site during primetime (8 pm to 11 pm).
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The social network is also hoping to rival Twitter, which has been aggressively moving to try to make money off TV-related tweets.
Twitter has been working Nielsen on a “Twitter TV Rating,” which is supposed to provide a measure of tweets in relation to their Nielsen performance, and has expanded the Amplify sponsored video tweet effort through deals with CBS and the NFL.
Daniel Slotwiner, head of measurement at Facebook, said the company’s initial project to measure the big four broadcast networks’ fall TV shows represents a “laboratory” — an attempt to understand the relationship between Facebook activity and external outcomes like ratings.
“There’s a meme out there that chatter matters, and that discussion about television correlates with ratings,” he said. “But is driving social conversation for a network smart or good? We don’t know.”
In a separate initiative, Facebook earlier this month launched a program to let media companies tap into its public API (application programming interface) to see anonymized user activity related to specific keywords. CNN, Fox and NBC are participating in the program.