SPOILER ALERT: This story includes a reference to a Walking Dead plot spoiler, and links to stories with more detailed spoilers.
The Walking Dead may be stomping on the NFL on Sunday night viewer ratings, but even with what showrunner Scott Gimple called a “devastating” midseason finale last night, it couldn’t get past the league’s marquee matchups when it comes to Twitter audiences, Nielsen said.
Walking Dead topped all TV series and specials for the week, with nearly 5.2 million people seeing 773,000 tweets about the finale, which featured the demise of yet another major character and many other gotcha moments custom-made for social sharing.
The week’s other newcomers to the list included an unlikely Christmas special built around a fat feline-turned-Internet meme and the MTV teen drama .Awkward. (complete with odd punctuation). It is worth noting that Grumpy Cat officially has made more of itself – thanks to a heaping helping of support from sponsor Purina – than anyone might have thought possible, never mind worth watching or tweeting about.
Nielsen measures its Twitter TV ratings based on the unduplicated number of Twitter users who saw at least one post about a broadcast while it is airing or in the three hours before and after that first broadcast.
On the sports side, the NFL had two big matchups in prime showcase slots, and both delivered lots of Twitter love. Tops was the Thanksgiving tilt between longtime rivals and co-division leaders Philadelphia and Dallas, which drew 7.3 million Twitter audience members from 915,000 tweets, both far exceeding the hordes of Walking Dead tweeters.
The league’s second big matchup, Sunday night between perhaps its two best teams, New England and Green Bay, was only a bit behind, and still well ahead of The Walking Dead, which was on at the same time for at least part of the game on the East Coast.
More surprising was the presence of at least one of the two college football games to make it in the Sports Top 10: the traditional rivalry between Ohio State and the University of Michigan. OSU is trying to make the inaugural championship playoff final four; Michigan was playing out the string before it fires its Dead Man Walking head coach.
The other college game to get a lot of Twitter notice was not, for once, one featuring defending champion Florida State. Rather it was a key rematch between in-state rivals Alabama (ranked No. 1) and Auburn (No. 15). Last year, that game was decided by a 109-yard return of a missed field goal attempt on the final play, sending Auburn and its fans into joyful hysterics and the SEC (and eventually national) championship game.
This year, Alabama already was guaranteed a spot in the SEC championship before kickoff, but the game turned into a track meet, with more points – 99 – and total yards of offense – 1,169 – than any previous game in the rivalry, which started in 1892. That provided plenty of things to tweet about for fans who could catch their breath long enough to post something.
As always, Nielsen provides plenty of caveats with its numbers. Here are the ones for this batch:
Nielsen Social captures relevant Tweets from three hours before through three hours after broadcast, local time. Unique Audience measures the audience of relevant Tweets ascribed to a program from when the Tweets are 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.