A Study of TV-Related Tweets Finds Hate More Than Love Drives Viewership

Canvs looked at thousands of episodes

Love triumphs over hate except on television.

According to a study of tweets related to hundreds of TV shows and thousands of episodes, social analytics TV company Canvs found that feelings of hate lead to bigger increases in viewership the following week for drama and reality shows. In fact, hate might be three times more powerful of a driving force than love. On the other hand, words like "love" and "beauty" were better indicators for comedy shows even than "funny."

"If you could know how people react to your content and how your content resonates—not just as a lens into humanity or a way to better understand audience insights but also as a predictor of what will happen next—this would be incredibly valuable," said Canvs CEO Jared Feldman.

Canvs used program-related Twitter data measured by Nielsen to better understand how certain words used in tweets about more than 400 drama, reality and comedy shows spanning 5,700 episodes predicted future viewership. The programming was a combination of new and returning seasons on networks including HBO, Showtime, CBS, Fox and AMC. The study is a follow-up to another study that Canvs released with Twitter and Starcom in March and examined how emotionally driven programming could drive sales.

Feldman said he and his chief scientist were sifting through "hundreds of millions of pieces of emotional conversation" last year and wondered how emotions affect what people will do next. After examining the tweets, they realized that for comedy, every one-percent increase in mentions of "love" was followed by a 0.1-percent increase in viewership the next week. For every one-percent increase in the word "beautiful," viewership rose 0.3 percent.

However, reality shows and drama shows had a different trend. For every one-percent increase in the word "hate," viewership the following week rose 0.7 percent. Increases in "crazy" saw an increase of 0.3 percent and "love" had an increase of 0.2 percent. For drama, words followed nearly the same trajectory. 

Based on this data, Feldman said networks should be less keen on shying away from shows that are hated by an audience—if, of course, that hate is directed at certain characters rather than the show itself.

"This is just crazy commentary on our society that this is true, but it's true," he said. "Hate is sometimes about the show in general, but it's also about characters, and storylines and things that are happening that are creating this tension. I mean if you freaking hate that housewife, you're actually likely to watch it again."

So then if people gravitate toward things they're more emotionally invested in, what is driving us?

Here are some of the stats from the study released today: