Twitter sees its future in television, and now, some new data might suggest it has every right to do so. This week, Nielsen launched its Twitter-driven TV ratings system, and it has released its first statistical report into the business of tweeting about TV. It says that tweets about TV in the U.S. have soared by 38% over the last year—with about 263 million such tweets in the second quarter of 2013. That's about 8 tweets for every 10 people in the U.S. Those tweets came from about 19 million people, which is a rise of 24% over a year ago.
Nielsen's measure of the leverage Twitter can generate is actually the most interesting statistic in the mix. The calculation for the Twitter TV Ratings suggests that the Twitter audience for a TV-related tweeter is 50 times bigger—i.e. 2,000 tweeters reach 100,000 people. Due to the harsh math of social networking analysis, this leverage figure tails off as the number of tweeters about a particular show increases due to overlap in their followers.
The lead show in the new ratings for the last week of September was, of course, Breaking Bad with 601,000 unique Twitter authors talking about it. The Voice came in second with 138,000.
So what does the report actually tell us? Part of Nielsen's data merely rediscovers some of the same force multiplier effects of social media discussions that brands and advertisers are slowly waking up to. But it does suggest that there is a fast-growing trend of TV discussion happening on Twitter, and the confidence with which Nielsen is embracing Twitter as a ratings machine may be a good sign that traditional TV ratings may become less important quite quickly. That'll be great news for Twitter's VP of Media, Chloe Sladen, who described to Fast Company that her pitching of Twitter's worth to the TV networks has been "relentless."