Article in Companies, Startup, Social Media, Technology categories.

SocialGuide Changes How We Rate TV

SocialGuide, a startup based in New York, has launched a new website that could change the way that we look at TV ratings. Instead of looking at TV ratings in the traditional way of how many sets are tuned to a specific channel, SocialGuide measures the amount of social activity based around each show. SocialGuide is challenging the standard that’s been set by the extremely flawed Nielsen ratings system, which has been around for decades. There are lots of problems with how Nielsen works. Have you ever met someone with a Nielsen ratings box, which measures what’s being watched at certain times? They exist, and that’s how Nielsen gets its ratings for shows. Yet they rely on a very small sample size to then generalize their statistics to the broader population. Shouldn’t there be a better way of measuring who’s watching what?

In recent years, networks have cared more about the 18-49 age range more than the overall amount of people watching their shows. They’ve chosen to focus on that group specifically because they felt that people in that age range would be most likely to buy products being advertised. The concept that SocialGuide is based on relies on that interactive component of viewers. They realized that the next step in more accurate TV ratings would be to track those shows that get the most social commentary. People that use social media are obviously more engaged with what they’re watching than people that do not. These people are paying attention, because they’re adding their comments to what they’re watching.  By concentrating on this involved group, SocialGuide has the ability to gather more accurate ratings of shows. CBS shows, for example, rarely do well on SocialGuide because their audience is so much older, and those people may or may not have fallen asleep with the TV on. That still counts for the Nielsen ratings, but not on SocialGuide.

A Test...

Let’s look at a random night on the calendar and see how SocialGuide differed from the standard Nielsen ratings. For the sake of the example, let’s just pick July 19th. (Yes, that happened to be my birthday. No, we’re not going to linger on that. Let’s just do it.)

Nielsen Top 5

1. America’s Got Talent (10:00 Hour)
2. America’s Got Talent (9:00 Hour)
4. NCIS: Los Angeles
5. It’s Worth What?

Here we have the top NBC reality show rising to the top, and reruns of the stalwart NCIS franchises in the top 5. Let’s look at what SocialGuide had to say.

SocialGuide Top 5

1. Pretty Little Liars
2. Teen Mom
3. America’s Got Talent
4. Finding Nemo (movie)
5. Degrassi

Clearly, a huge difference. Only one of the top 5 shows in the Nielsen rankings were in the top 5 for SocialGuide. NCIS and NCIS:LA didn’t place on SocialGuide’s top list. There appears to be a big discrepancy in how Nielsen is rating shows and what is being discussed in social media, as tracked by SocialGuide.


This new technology introduced by SocialGuide could be of big help to both the networks and the advertisers. With DVRs now prevalent in many homes, live TV watching has gone down significantly. Ratings for top shows have gone down across the board for years because so many people watch shows at a different time. Therefore, being able to know not only who’s watching a show but how they’re reacting to it could be very valuable. Advertisers can benefit by knowing who is paying attention to a show so that can decide when to air their commercials. It wouldn’t surprise me if this startup changes how all shows are rated altogether. Look out, Nielsen.

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