Arts & CultureFilm & TV

Twitter is moving television ‘water cooler’ talk to real time



Twitter has a continuously growing presence when it comes to conversations about television. Just last Sunday night, Twitter crashed temporarily due to the huge number of people retweeting Ellen’s Oscar celebrity selfie and the Twitter account “@SochiProblems” went viral, gaining more followers than the Olympics’ official Twitter account. For many shows, Twitter has become an up-to-the-minute infinite water cooler, a place for people to gather to share their thoughts in real time.

Media research firm Nielsen provides weekly rankings of the most watched TV shows and in October, they began a weekly ranking of shows with the highest Twitter presence. Interestingly enough, the shows Americans are watching the most do not line up with those they are tweeting the most. In fact, the only show on both lists is the highly popular “The Walking Dead.”

According to Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings, the top five most tweeted about TV shows for the week of Feb. 17-23 were as follows:

1. “The Walking Dead”

2. “Pretty Little Liars”

3. “The Bachelor”

4. “Teen Wolf”

5. “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”

This list is much different from the top five most-watched TV shows of the same week.

Besides the Winter Olympics, which took the first seven spots, the shows ranked:

1. “The Walking Dead”

2. “The Big Bang Theory”

3. “Criminal Minds”

4. “American Idol”

4. “NCIS”

What about the most-tweeted shows lend themselves to a great social media presence?

Senior Sarah Boon is an avid tweeter of “The Bachelor.” Boon watches the show religiously and has developed a reputation with her friends, family and sorority as a frequent “Bachelor” commentator. She also receives favorites, retweets and follows from other “Bachelor” fans, whom she has never met, as a result of her tweets.

“It’s 2014, everyone is multitasking. They’re on Facebook or trying to study during commercial breaks. Tweeting keeps me focused on the show so that I always have something to do and helps me follow the storyline. I like seeing what other people are thinking about it too,” Boon said.

Boon watches several shows but tweets mainly about “The Bachelor” because of its real-time social media community.

“People watch shows On Demand or on Netflix, but “The Bachelor” is one of those shows that people get really excited to watch right then. That’s the big difference,” Boon said.

The idea of the water-cooler show is what contributes most to Twitter use. Some of the more popular shows aren’t tweeted about as much simply because people aren’t watching them at the same time, creating less space for a community.

“I usually watch it the night of, otherwise it’s not worth tweeting about,” freshman Jessi Gudgell said. Gudgell also enjoys tweeting about “The Bachelor” and “Pretty Little Liars.”

Shows’ buzz, which was previously discussed over the phone or in person the next day at work — hence “water cooler” — is now moving to Twitter.

“There’s no magic bullet for what’s going to create buzz. Some shows end up being those water cooler programs where it’s like, ‘Did everybody watch it? What happened last night?’ which creates a community,” UO advertising Professor Chris Chavez said.

Chavez also said that shows with a lot of paratext lend themselves more to Twitter use. If industry executives decide Twitter is a good place for a show to gain attention, there may need to be a shift from On Demand viewing to the more community-based format of only being able to watch shows at a certain time and on a certain day.


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