The NFL barely nipped ahead of ratings monster The Walking Dead in the week’s race for the biggest Twitter TV audience, Nielsen said. The narrow win, by barely 1 percent, marks the closest just about any scripted program has come this fall to besting the NFL and its on-air and online ratings power.
The Walking Dead’s season 5 debut Sunday was massive, setting records for TV ratings and besting the blowout football game that started before it (though that primetime game between New York and Philadelphia still was second among sports events for the week, but also trailed No. 2 series of the week, American Horror Story: Freak Show).
The Walking Dead, however, sparked all kinds of conversation on Twitter among its ardent fans, no doubt further fueled by executive producer Gale Anne Hurd’s big Twitter presence. In all, 1.3 million tweets about the show were seen by 7.4 million unique Twitter users during its broadcast, or during the three hours before and after, under Nielsen’s rules.
There were a couple of other modest surprises among the week’s series and specials Top 10, including fast-starting newcomer The Flash, and long-running Saturday Night Live, which featured alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig but also low audience ratings (battering SNL over the show’s inadequacies has, after all, become its own social-media sport). Kurt Sutter, another exec producer who likes the Twitter-verse and vice versa, saw his show, Sons Of Anarchy, rumble into the top 10 as well.
On the sports side, Major League Baseball’s playoffs poked through on the National League side, with games featuring the St. Louis Cardinals, first in finishing off L.A.’s Dodgers, then in the first League Championship Series game against San Francisco. All those teams have large fan bases, so their presence in the top 10 isn’t a huge surprise. MLB didn’t fare as well on its American League side, where the pennant series between small-market teams Baltimore and Kansas City failed to stir fans’ flying fingers.
And one other note: the NBA actually broke into the top 10 with a preseason game, one of the more unprepossessing exercises in sport. But it might have had something to do with the combatants at hand, i.e., LeBron James’ former team, the Miami Heat, against the team he started with and now has returned to, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Count on lots more of those matchups this season when the games actually matter.
Nielsen always sends along several caveats about its numbers, particularly on the sports side, to wit:
Nielsen Social captures relevant Tweets from three hours before, during and three hours after an episode’s initial broadcast, local time. Unique Audience measures the audience of relevant Tweets ascribed to an episode from when the Tweets were sent until the end of the broadcast day at 5am. Sports Events include those on Broadcast and National Cable Networks only across all day parts. For multicast events, networks are listed alphabetically and metrics reflect the highest Unique Audience across all airing networks, denoted with an asterisk.