EXCLUSIVE: Only five new shows are attracting notable positive social-media interest through late summer, even though fall TV season debuts are just days or weeks away, says a new Adobe study. For most newcomers, in fact, the social universe is barely talking about them even as time ticks down to their first episodes.
“Over 75 percent of TV shows are getting less than 100 mentions (on social-media sites) a day,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst behind the Adobe Digital Index, part of Adobe’s Marketing Cloud program suite. “What it’s telling us is a lot of shows out there really don’t know how to use social media.”
What seems to work – at least in terms of audience awareness, sentiment and anticipation – is spinoffs, especially of superhero franchises.
In fact, three of the most anticipated shows are based on superhero franchises: Constantine, Gotham and The Flash. Another is a spinoff of one of TV’s highest-rated shows, NCIS: New Orleans. And then there’s the outlier, How To Get Away With Murder, which may have a very different advantage, its executive producer Shonda Rhimes.
All five shows have positive sentiment above 60 percent, led by Constantine, which has the highest positive sentiment and is most anticipated among social-media users. Gotham has the most international appeal, especially in the U.K., which bodes well for future syndication (and likely, future piracy) prospects.
For comparison, Adobe has been charting the social-media heat around big films for a few years now. Gaffney and her colleagues say they’ve had a perfect record the past two years predicting which summer blockbusters will be successful, based on the number of social mentions and sentiment around each film 20 days before its release.
On average, a successful film draws 18,000 social media mentions a day, Gaffney said. Even unprofitable movies generate ten times more social media than most of this fall’s TV entries. Only 10 percent of the new TV shows were getting even 1,000 mentions a day, and most less than 100. Making predictions for TV shows so far has been much more difficult than film, Gaffey said, but the results are at least “indicative, if not predictive.”
The study looked at social mentions and (where evident), the sentiment behind those mentions, on a dozen social-media and blogging platforms. The list includes the usual suspects: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube. But it also includes sites such as V Kontakte, Reddit, Dailymotion, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, Disqus, Foursquare and Metacafe. The study analyzed more than 2 million mentions during the summer months.
Gaffney acknowledges that, “It’s possible the marketing will kick in and that will change the social mentions overnight. (The results) could just be an artifact of when things start getting advertised.”
But it’s also possible that, given how many new series get cancelled every year, the current approach to marketing, with its reliance on promotion on the same network and (maybe) its corporate siblings, along with billboards and bus ads, isn’t working for launching new brands.
“Because there isn’t a whole lot of anticipation coming for these shows, it’s a big catchup curve to get on,” Gaffney said. “Maybe they can do it, maybe they can’t. They need to get massively big audiences right away.”
The new shows with all the anticipation are the ones that are getting an assist from an existing property. Three superhero series (and one of them a spinoff of the hit Arrow on top of that) feel a lot like what’s working with the big summer movies these days. Just look at all those Marvel films tied broadly to The Avengers. An NCIS spinoff also feels like a no-brainer, in terms of expanding on a pre-built audience.
“There’s a whole lot of coattail riding going on here,” Gaffney said. She called How To Get Away With Murder “the real standout here” because it’s riding a very different kind of coattails.
Yes, it may have a two-time Oscar nominee (Viola Davis) as its lead, but the semi-secret weapon may be Shonda Rhimes’ facility with social media compared to most TV producers. Take a look at what she’s done with Scandal, which has built big ratings in part on the live tweeting by the show’s stars and principals during and between broadcasts.
There may be other ways to build buzz, Gaffney said. She pointed to Selfie, which released its pilot on “over-the-top” online-video outlets so people could sample it at their leisure. Buzz about the show jumped six times after the pilot was made available.
“It seems like it’s got a lot more potential than is being used,” Gaffney said. The study’s results are “a call to arms to all of the TV industry to rethink the digital marketing opportunities for fall TV premieres. Americans aren’t consuming TV the way they had in the past.”