Culture Twitter — Darryl Woodford, 13 August 2013
Australian Reality TV on Twitter: A Two Horse Race

Last weekend provided an opportunity to compare the three currently running Australian reality television series, and their social media presence, with Big Brother Showdown on Saturday night, and both X-Factor and Masterchef airing on Sunday. For current purposes, analysis uses the official hashtag of each show, which will exclude a number of tweets using #bigbrother (which may also refer to the currently running US series), #masterchef, #xfactor etc.

X-Factor was the clear winner of the Saturday night battle, doubling up Big Brother which was at a season low for average tweets per minute.  Masterchef however rated terribly on Twitter:

 

 

If, however, we give Big Brother the benefit of the doubt, and take a more typical show (in this case Thursday 2 August) rather than the Showdown format, it looks more competitive, able to keep pace with X-Factor and generating more tweets through airing over a longer period, with Masterchef still lagging well behind the other two, as the following graph (which timeshifts all shows to an identical ending point) demonstrates:

 

 

Finally, all three shows aired over a two hour period on Monday night, with a similar story to the time-shifted graph above:

 

There are a few interesting things here: the poor showing of Masterchef, the high peak of Big Brother in comparison to the other shows, but also the increase in Big Brother tweet volume as X-Factor concluded, which suggests a significant social media overlap between the two shows.

Big Brother Australia Update

Episode 4 of Big Brother Australia (Thursday night) followed much the same pattern as Wednesday’s discussed previously, with approximately 7,200 tweets over the hour of the broadcast, peaking at 164/min. It is worth noting that the array of different Australian timezones do have an impact on these totals, and because of the overlaps it is difficult to separate them as I have with the US broadcasts. However, as discussed last time the peaks do correspond to the Eastern Time zone viewing, which is what I will concentrate on here.

That said, here is the graph for Episode 4 from Thursday night:

 

 

In Australia this season, Friday Night football means a reduced 30 minute show on Friday. with the show also suffering from a major drop in ratings. While  Monday’s premiere reached 1.31 million and subsequent daily shows hovered around 1 million (1.04, 1.03 and 0.98), Friday’s show only reached 0.73m viewers.

Here is what it looked like on Twitter, with only 1326 tweets over the 30 minute broadcast (+ 5 minutes either side), peaking at 70/minute:

 

 

Saturday saw the launch of ‘Big Brother Showdown’, a re-imagined version of ‘Friday Night Live’, which seemingly did not resonate with viewers, with a new series low of 0.68million viewers. The twitter performance was similarly down, with 1,797 tweets over the 1 hour broadcast (+ 5 mins either side), and a peak of 76/minute:

 

Significance of a Live Feed:

While there are many differences between Big Brother in its various international incarnations, one of the most significant from a viewer engagement perspective (at the very least, this viewer) is the lack of a Live Feed during the return of both the UK (after the move from Channel 4 to Five) and Australian (Ten Network to Nine) series. Fans of the show have long made the argument that this impacts detrimentally on viewer engagement, while producers have argued that such a service is not cost effective in Australia, and that may well be true, however large numbers of viewers continue to complain each year.

Given the US (which maintains a live feed, on a subscription basis) and Australian series are currently running concurrently, I thought it might be interesting to look at the engagement / discussion on Twitter of both shows before and after  their broadcast slots. Even allowing for population / Twitter population differences (The US series is watched by almost 6x as many people, and has in-show peaks of around 2-4x the Australian broadcasts), the effect is obvious. While the Australian broadcast is lucky to receive 100 tweets/hr during the afternoon before a show, the US is hovering at 1000-2000, putting news from the show in front of a much wider Twitter audience.

The graph below takes advantage of a new TimeShift formula (utilized above to compare Australian Reality TV shows) to match Australia to US Eastern Time. I’ve also cut off the top of the Big Brother show from Thursday and Sunday nights (US Time) , which peaked at 65,000/hr and 25,000/hr respectively, in order to increase visibility at the lower end of the graph. As you can see, discussion of the US Live Feed on Twitter was greater than discussion of Saturday Night’s television show in Australia, and the two were fairly close for Friday night also:

 

When considering the viability of Live Feeds, such a social media presence cannot be ignored, and I continue to suggest that live feeds for reality TV shows are a weapon producers should use to their (social media) advantage.

About the Author

Darryl Woodford

Darryl Woodford is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation, based at Queensland University of Technology. His research includes works on the video game and gambling industries.

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