As an avid Twitter user and rabid sports fan, I found myself constantly checking tweets on the Super Bowl in real time. I’m inherently curious, so I kept track of the top trending topics to see exactly what was sparking the most conversation throughout the night.
During the Super Bowl game, 100% of the top 10 trending topics at any point were TV-related—the game, the players, the coaches, the performers, the ads and even the actors in the ads. Maybe it’s not altogether a huge surprise that an iconic annual event would spur massive online reaction, but what may be surprising to advertisers is that this one-day event is very much an everyday occurrence in the Twittersphere.
Recently, the Video Advertising Bureau conducted research into TV’s presence on Twitter, which is predominated by younger adults (18- to 34-year-olds comprise 40% of the audience but 58% of the time spent). Similar to Super Bowl Sunday but for an extended period of time, we tracked the top 10 trending topics once an hour throughout primetime for four weeks from October 10 to November 6.
As a balance to the Super Bowl, let’s consider the every-night effect of TV on Twitter. On average over the four-week period, TV accounted for 79% of all top 10 trending topics; while a TV topic trended #1 on 24 of the 28 nights. After 10PM on five nights (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), TV accounted for well over 90% of top 10 trending topics, even hitting 98% at 11:15PM (after 10PM programs ended) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
That’s dominating the conversation, night after night. Importantly, it’s not just sports, although sports trended on all 28 nights and sparked 68% of TV topics trending. It’s entertainment, too, which trended on 26 nights, and when TV news on the election made headlines, it trended on 16 nights.
What does this tell us? TV is the shared experience that lights up social screens. Millennials not only watch TV, they watch it live so they can talk about what they see in real time—there’s no excitement or belonging in tweeting yesterday’s content when it’s all about cultural immediacy.
Ad-supported TV generates a collective attention that is unmatched among media options. Of the entertainment programs that trended top 10 over the four-week study, 53 were from ad-supported TV networks, three were from pay-TV networks, one from pay-per-view, one from PBS, and one from Twitch. None were from a subscription video platform or YouTube. That’s a final score of 53-6, a real blowout.
This mass visceral connection has growing power for advertisers. It mobilizes the kind of attention in scale and time that reliably fills sales channels and lifts brands.