Can Facebook Activity Help Predict NFL TV Viewership?

Facebook is the primary second screen for NFL fans before, during and after the game, according to an analysis by Nielsen.

Facebook is the primary second screen for National Football League fans before, during and after the game, according to an analysis by Nielsen of nine nationally broadcast NFL games in October and November.

Facebook head of global sports partnerships Dan Reed outlined Nielsen’s findings in a Facebook Media blog post, examining the relationship between the social network and television pregame, in-game and postgame.

Nielsen examined the volume of Facebook activity in the 15 minutes prior to kickoff and found that they represented a “strong estimator” of the TV audience for the first minute of those games.

According to Reed, shares and posts were the two Facebook interactions that demonstrated the strongest statistical relationship to TV viewership, particularly shares—each additional post during the 15 minutes prior to kickoff represented 250 additional viewers in the first minute, while each additional share represented 1,000.


Once the games were underway, Nielsen found a “positive relationship” between Facebook shares and increases in TV viewership, adding that for Sunday-night games, the association was greater after the first 25 minutes of telecasts.


Finally, while TV viewership fell during the final minutes of games, Facebook activity rose, as users of the social network continued discussing the games after the final whistle.


Reed pointed out that more than 65 million Facebook users discussed Super Bowl XLIX last year, and he discussed the recently introduced Facebook Sports Stadium feature:

With 650 million people connected to sports pages, Facebook is the largest community of sports fans in the world. People turn to Facebook to celebrate, commiserate and talk trash with their friends and fellow fans, so we wanted to build them a place on Facebook devoted entirely to sports. We recently launched Facebook Sports Stadium as a second screen for live sporting events, and we will continue to invest in this area.

Readers: Did Nielsen’s findings reflect your activity on Facebook before, during and after NFL games?


Image of football and tablet courtesy of Shutterstock. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.