Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Super Bowl Eyeballs Up a Bit, Super Bowl Chatter Up a Lot

Last night’s Super Bowl set a new ratings record. Last night’s Super Bowl also set new records for social chatter on Facebook and Twitter.

No coincidence, right?

Well. Maybe. The numbers are still rough, and will morph a bit over time. But here are the basics:

TV ratings are up slightly: CBS says last night’s game earned a 48.1 rating, which means it drew a few hundred thousand more U.S. households than the 2011 Super Bowl, which held the previous record with a 47.9 rating. Each ratings point equals about 1.14 million households, so once you’re done rounding, the audience for both games was right around 54 million homes. The Super Bowl is such a huge event that it’s hard to move the numbers much one way or another.

Social numbers are up a lot: You can take your pick of social metrics here, all of which measure different data sets. Social tracker Trendrr says social activity was up 2.7x, from 17.5 million comments to 47.7 million. Competitor Bluefin thinks comments were up 2.5x, from 12.2 million to 30.6 million. Twitter itself tracked 22.1 million comments, up from 13.7 million last year.

So: A lot more chatter, not many more eyeballs. This actually looks quite a bit like last year’s numbers, which saw chatter go way up while actual viewing dropped a tiny bit. And we’ve seen other examples, like last fall’s MTV Music Video Awards, where social metrics went up a bunch while ratings slumped.

So perhaps it’s time to stop associating increased Twitter and Facebook traffic with increased ratings. Social activity may help the TV guys keep an audience, and that’s certainly a good thing from their perspective.

But my hunch is what we’re really seeing is an increase in the per capita volume of social chatter. That is, people who like to talk about TV on Twitter and Facebook are even more likely to talk about TV than they were last year, or the year before that.

Now we have to figure out what that means for advertisers, programmers and the social networks themselves.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google