By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A frenzy of Twitter chatter about a broadcast program generally means more viewers are tuning in, while more popular TV shows generate more Twitter activity, a new study by Nielsen has found.
The media measurement firm says that for the first time it has proved with statistical rigor what many in the media business have suspected in recent years: that a show's ratings and the magnitude of its Twitter buzz are correlated.
While Mike Hess, a Nielsen executive vice president for media analytics, warned the study did not necessarily conclude that Twitter chatter drove more TV viewership, and vice versa.
"While our study doesn't prove causality, the correlation we uncovered is significant and we will continue our research to deepen the industry's understanding of this relationship," Hess said in a statement.
The findings will be announced Tuesday by the two companies, who claim the results back up the premise of a new, joint ratings project they will soon unveil.
Nielsen and Twitter are set to begin publishing this fall a new "Nielsen Twitter TV Rating" that measures the volume of Twitter conversation about every program.
The privately-held microblogging company has long sought to convince large brand marketers that it is a potent, real-time ad-delivery platform that complements and augments the live television-viewing experience. Marketers on TV can simultaneously reach their audience through a "second screen" because Twitter users often watch TV while tweeting away on their phones, Twitter has previously argued.
In the new study, Nielsen researchers analyzed a total of 221 episodes. The volume of tweets caused statistically significant changes to live TV ratings for 29 percent of the episodes, Nielsen said, without quantifying the degree of Twitter's influence on ratings.
The companies said the analysis methodology used for their study was developed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Clive Granger.
(Reporting by Gerry Shih; editing by David Evans)