It was a very good seven days for Disney-owned networks and the NBA in Nielsen’s latest weekly ratings of TV’s biggest Twitter audiences. Disney outlets held down half the total 20 spots in the top 10s for both series/specials and sports events. And on the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs, programming tied to the league and its still-sort-of-sister the WNBA occupied 11 slots. The ratings are the most recent from Nielsen in its new measurement launched in October, an attempt to quantify how much Twitter activity is going on around TV shows.
At the top of the series and specials list this week was the ESPN NBA documentary Bad Boys, from the 30 For 30 series, followed by ABC’s Scandal. As I wrote last week ahead of the season finale for Scandal, show creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes puts a premium on social media, with many of the show’s stars and other principals tweeting or otherwise posting about the show with fans before, during and after each episode. It’s paid off with strong ratings and stronger fan engagement with the show.
Given that reality competition shows and sports are more likely to attract live audiences (as opposed to delayed viewing on DVRs and VOD), it’s not a surprise that shows like Real Housewives Of Atlanta and Dancing With The Stars made the top 10. But seeing scripted fare like Scandal, HBO’s Game Of Thrones (this for Sunday night’s episode a week after another spectacular plot shocker) and, especially, MTV’s Awkward on the list has to count as an achievement for all three shows — especially the two cable shows and their narrower viewing bases.
Over on the sports side, which measures actual games being played, the NBA ruled, with playoff matches snagging nine of the 10 spots. Only the final of Spanish soccer tournament, the Copa del Rey between perennial global powers Real Madrid and Barcelona broke through the NBA Twitter TV sweep.
In our graphics built from Nielsen’s data, the number of tweets in the right-most column means how many individual accounts posted a tweet about a specific show in the few hours around the time it airs. Nielsen then calculated a total Twitter “audience” for each show based on the unduplicated followers of each of the Twitter accounts that posted something about a show. In cases where fewer people posted but the total audience was larger, it means those posters on average have larger followings. Scandal, for instance, had easily the most unique accounts talking about its season finale, nearly 700,000 of them, but still was second in total audience to the Bad Boys documentary about the rough-and-tumble NBA champion Detroit Pistons teams. The docu had only about a fifth as many tweets but clearly drew in an audience of prominent Twitter users, likely including many NBA players.