Nielsen has released a study that, for the first time, provides statistical evidence of the two-way relationship between Twitter and television, inasmuch as how conversation on Twitter about a TV show can boost ratings for that program, and vice versa.

However, while the data has shown that there’s definitely some correlation between a spike in tweets and strong ratings, it’s typically more in Twitter’s favour than the other way around.

Indeed, Nielsen’s findings suggested that discussion on Twitter boosted ratings in 29 percent of TV shows, with competitive reality TV (44 percent boost) performing best in all categories, and drama (18 percent) seeing the lowest impact.

Conversely, TV shows with high ratings caused a spike in tweets 48 percent of time, suggesting that a popular show’s existing audience is more likely to be talking about that show on Twitter, and at high volume, as opposed to their chatter encouraging new fans to tune-in.

“Using time series analysis, we saw a statistically significant causal influence indicating that a spike in TV ratings can increase the volume of tweets, and, conversely, a spike in tweets can increase tune-in,” said Paul Donato, Nielsen’s chief research officer. “This rigorous, research-based approach provides our clients and the media industry with a better understanding of the interplay between Twitter and broadcast TV viewing.”

It makes sense that reality TV is more likely to see a boost from tweets because those kinds of shows depend less on being seen in their entirety, and results are often delivered in the last few minutes, which is when the talk on Twitter will be at its peak. Conversely, drama is exponentially less enjoyable the longer you leave it before you tune in, irrespective of how excited the show’s fans are: if you’re not already watching you’re unlikely to care.

(Source: Nielsen. Original TV image via Shutterstock.)