ABC’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’ first entertainment show to tap live Facebook data

By Cory Bergman 

When “Dancing with the Stars” airs its season premiere tonight (Monday) on ABC, you’ll see social TV data powered by Facebook — the first live entertainment integration by the social network. Not only will viewers see which contestants are the most popular on Facebook, but also the demographics behind it. For example, younger women in California may be big fans of Brant & Peta’s performance. The live data can be sliced by age, gender and geography — a dimension not readily available on Twitter.

“Debuting with ‘Dancing with the Stars’ as our first entertainment partner is a natural fit,” explained Nick Grudin, Director of Partnerships at Facebook. “From cheering for their favorite contestants to debating judging decisions, the show drives passionate conversation from viewers. Now the TV audience will get a real-time snapshot of the social discourse across the nation.”


The data is powered by the Public Feed API and the Keyword Insights API, two new data services Facebook made available last week to a handful of media partners — Buzzfeed, NBC’s Today Show, CNN, Sky TV, and Slate — and ABC is the latest addition. The Public Feed API displays a real-time feed of public posts for a keyword, and The Keyword Insights API aggregates the total number of posts that mention a specific term in a given time frame. It can also display anonymous, aggregated results based on gender, age and location, which ABC is leveraging for Dancing with the Stars.

It’s all part of Facebook’s aggressive push into the social TV space. “Over the past few months, we have rolled out a series of products aimed at surfacing the public conversations happening on Facebook including hashtags, embedded posts, and trending topics,” explains Justin Osofsky, VP of Media Partnerships at Facebook. “We are committed to building features that improve the experience of discovering and participating in conversations about things happening in the world right now, including entertainment, sports, politics and news.”

Facebook is expected to offer the APIs to more media partners in the coming weeks, at no charge. Mass Relevance, which is already wired into many control rooms, inked a strategic partnership with Facebook last week. All this is adding up to a new wave of social TV experimentation across the industry, not only with on-air integration, but upstream with the creative process.

“The feedback that comes from social conversations can and should influence production decisions,” Facebook’s Grudin told Variety. “We are excited to learn from the industry how this is going to be of use in that way. As a producer sees that a particular storyline or contestant is driving a higher degree of conversation, especially around a particular demographic or region, that information could be used to pivot or adapt storylines over time.”

For an industry dominated by Twitter data, Facebook’s entry into social TV is a welcome addition by many, opening up new possibilities and innovations in the months to come.