Nielsen: people enjoy television more when it's social

Social media and second screens are making people watch more television, and enjoy it more too

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
August 5, 2014
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It's not exactly news to say that the Internet, and social media in particular, have changed television in fundamental ways. It has changed where. when, and even more importantly, how we watch.

People rarely sit down and simply watch a show now; instead they talk about it  before, have a computer or smartphone with them during the show and then they hop on message boards afterwards. It's really a full time commitment, isn't it?

The real question is: does making television more social actually improve the television watching experience and does it actually benefit the shows to have more of an online presence? The answer, according to a new Nielsen study, is a resounding "yes."

Social media and second screens are not only leading to more awareness of programs, but to more live watching and more recordings, as compared to similar figures in 2012. 

The most important stat, though, is the 15% that said that they actually enjoy watching television more now, compared to only 11% in 2012. That is obviously a good sign for shows to continue on this current path.

As for one of the potential downsides of social television watching, the ability to be spoiled, aka have plots twists ruined before you've had a chance to see them for yourself, that number did not go up year to year; the same 3% say that they will watch less because of this. (I honestly don't  really understand not watching a show because of a spoiler; yeah, it can be really annoying, but why completely give up on it because of that? Seems like an overreaction to me.)

"The rise of social TV has changed that relationship, and according a study by Nielsen, more and more Americans are quickly warming up to this new behavior," Nielsen said in the report.

When broken down by racial demographics (and you know that television advertisers LOVE demographics!) Hispanics and Asian viewers seem to be getting the most benefit out of the changing television landscape. 

Hispanic TV viewers have the highest program awareness, television enjoyment and live TV watching, while Asian Americans record more programs than any other ethnic group.

In nearly every case, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians, were ahead of the national averages. Does this mean we're going to start seeing more African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians on our television screens? It would make sense, but I wouldn't count on it. 

Finally, the study look at a look at what people were actually doing on their devices while watching television. The top five responses were:

  1. Surfing the web (49% of smartphone uses, 66% of tablet users)
  2. Shopping (24% of smartphone uses, 44% of tablet users)
  3. Checking sports scores (27% of smartphone uses, 29% of tablet users)
  4. Looking up info about the show (29% of smartphone uses, 41% of tablet users)
  5. Emailing/texting about the show (29% of smartphone uses, 23% of tablet users)

Tablet users seem more likely to be using a second screen, but that probably has more to do with the size of the screen than anything else.

This Nielsen study is not the first to show a positive correlation between social media and television. A Nielsen study put out in August of last year showed that the relationship between Twitter and television is one that is mutually benefitial.

Nielsen researchers analyzed a total of 221 episodes, analyzing minute-to-minute trends in the live TV ratings and tweets. The results showed that tweets caused ratings spikes for 29% of those episodes. At the same time, the ratings spikes for 48% of the shows actually caused an increase in tweets.

This suggests that Twitter and television have a symbiotic relationship, where each one needs the other to thrive.

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