Social Media & Television: Which Cable Programs Get the Buzz?

“Happy talk, keep talking happy talk.
Talk about things you’d like to do.
You gotta have a dream. If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?”

“South Pacific” – Music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.


As reported in my May 19 blog post, Rentrak has been partnering with social media tracking companies over the past several years and publishing a weekly “TV Engagement” or “Stickiness” report that covers ad-supported primetime programs. In that blog, I talked about the level of social media chatter about network TV shows in Prime.

That blog pointed out that if an advertiser is looking for broadcast network Prime shows that are the “crème de la crème” in generating buzz, they should look to “Awards” and “Sports” first. “Drama,” “Nighttime Soaps” and “Teen-Oriented” programs also get a lot of talk. It is interesting to note that this reflects the conventional wisdom of what shows used to get talked about the morning after they aired around the water cooler or in the halls of high school.

As mentioned before, in 2013, we partnered for most of the year with Trendrr, and then later with General Sentiment, to create our weekly reports on the most “buzzed” about ad-supported Primetime broadcast network and cable TV programs. The two companies have different ways of scoring social media chatter about TV shows, so to make a fair comparison for the whole year, I averaged each service’s score and indexed their reported programs to their own average. So what you will see in the following charts are program counts for both services for the entirety of 2013, as well as the average indices by genre for both services.

In this blog, I will focus just on ad-supported cable shows in Prime. It is very important to note that all of these ad-supported Prime cable shows were the most talked about ad-supported Prime cable shows during the week in which they aired. An index above 100 just means that, within the most talked about ad-supported Prime cable shows, the show was even more talked aboutAn index below 100 means that, within the most talked about ad-supported Prime shows, this show was less talked about.

So let’s look first at the volume of chatter by program genre for ad-supported cable Prime shows in 2013. As before, I’ve done my own personal classification here (in part to protect the innocent), but also to reflect the nuances of social media buzz about TV programs.

# of Cable Shows by Genre

The chart above shows the number of times a show in this genre appeared in our weekly list for ad-supported cable Prime top 20 most talked about shows in 2013. It is a count of occurrences on our weekly list. The greatest number of talked about ad-supported cable Prime shows in 2013 were in the “Reality” genre, followed by “Drama,” “Sports” and “Comedy.” “Drama,” “Reality” and “Comedy” also were often talked about for broadcast Prime as was pointed out in the May 19 blog. However, “Competition” (e.g. “So You Think You Can Dance”) was number the number one genre for the broadcast networks, but was number six for cable.

The chart below looks at the average index of the shows in the genre compared to the average of all talked about shows over 2013 in ad-supported cable Prime. As in broadcast Prime, Award shows on ad-supported cable networks are the most talked about programming. The high score for awards shows in cable is due to not only the basic human appeal of talking about winners (and losers) but also to the fact that cable awards shows are geared to younger viewers (e.g. music awards) who are more likely to be chatting with each other.

Average Genre Index

So “the end is our beginning” as T.S. Eliot said. What generates conversation about TV shows? What has always generated conversation: shows with glamorous stars, shows with an edge of competition with winners and losers, shows with dramatic plot twists, shows that really make you laugh, and shows that have a particular appeal to the young. This holds true across broadcast and cable.


“It might be a fight like you see on the screen,
A swain getting slain for the love of a queen,
Some great Shakespearean scene,
Where a ghost and a prince meet,
And everyone ends in mincemeat. 

A clown with his pants falling down,
Or the dance that’s a dream of romance,
Or the scene where the villain is mean.
That’s entertainment!”

“That’s Entertainment!” – Music by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Howard Dietz.

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