Twitter just became a ratings chart of its very own. Twitter and Nielsen, the major TV ratings system, have announced a partnership to create the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating, a social measurement of television program popularity.

This is being pitched as a syndicated industry-standard metric based entirely on Twitter data, not the standard Nielsen boxes that are placed in a scattering of US households. The new rating will be made available in the fall of 2013, and is built on the SocialGuide platform from NM Incite.

“As the experience of TV viewing continues to evolve, our TV partners have consistently asked for one common benchmark from which to measure the engagement of their programing,” says Twitter Head of Media Chloe Sladden. “This new metric is intended to answer that request, and to act as a complement and companion to the Nielsen TV rating.”

Typically, Nielsen boxes are hooked up to televisions in homes that are selected for their ‘representative’ qualities. This very small number of households (in comparison to the overall viewership) is then used to calculate the raw viewership numbers of any given TV program.

Steve Hasker, President, Global Media Products and Advertiser Solutions at Nielsen says that the “ Nielsen Twitter TV Rating is a significant step forward for the industry, particularly as programmers develop increasingly captivating live TV and new second-screen experiences, and advertisers create integrated ad campaigns that combine paid and earned media.”

There have been programs in other countries that mimic this kind of ratings system. Notably, Dentsu-owned Video Research announced plans in October to launch a new rating system based on mentions via Twitter. The Nielsen/Twitter deal would mark the first deal of this kind for the US.

As television viewing has moved from the box to our ‘second’ screens like tablets and phones, it has become more difficult to extract an accurate rating of TV popularity. These kinds of difficulties have only compounded those that were incurred when time-shifting via DVR became a major way that a lot of us viewed TV. Now, it’s not enough to install systems in DVRs to see what Nielsen households watch and when they watch it. Any kind of modern ratings system has to look at other indicators, including social ones.

As Twitter has become the de-facto second-screen chat room for television viewers, a partnership makes a massive amount of sense. In the end, this could very well lead to a more accurate overall picture of what people are watching. If you’ve ever wondered why a show got cancelled when it was all your friends talked about on Twitter, this new ratings system could help.

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