Social TV Study tracks social activity of TV audiences across Tumblr

Post Lifetime

Behaviour and shape of TV audiences on social networks analysed

Results of a Social TV study, the first to map the social activity of TV audiences across Tumblr alongside other social networks, has been released by social data intelligence platform Pulsar in partnership with Tumblr.

A number of studies have tried to quantify exactly how television viewers engage in social activities around their favourite shows, but these studies only focus on the few hour window around a show’s broadcast, providing only a narrow perspective which doesn’t fully account for how viewers are actually enjoying television.

The prevalence of DVRs, streaming video, and other video on demand services mean that traditional viewing times have shifted and extended from the live broadcast window to the days and weeks after an episode airs. Improved access to creative tools has also changed the way people talk about television. Fans now envision their own story arcs and create original pieces of art inspired by their favourite characters.

To account for these changing behaviours, Pulsar took a broader view: tracking the size, shape, and behavioural dimensions of the conversation over the long term. Pulsar analysed how the audiences engaged with TV shows on Tumblr and Twitter by tracking discussion around five TV series (Sherlock, Supernatural, Pretty Little Liars, Sleepy Hollow, and Malcolm in the Middle) for 11 days, before, during and after key episodes in Fall 2013.

1. Conversation around the shows analysed is larger and lasts longer on Tumblr than on any other social network


  • People talked about the selected 5 TV shows more on Tumblr than on any other social network: 7.3 million posts (including reblogs) in the period studied, compared with 3.1 million posts (and retweets) on Twitter
  • Twitter leads discussion in the hour that the shows air (621k posts vs. Tumblr’s 91k posts)…
  •  …but as soon as the shows finish, Twitter activity falls sharply, whereas conversation on Tumblr actually grows (1 hour after airtime: 31% more activity than when the show is live)
  • Fans move the conversation on to Tumblr to discuss the episode just seen, recapping their favourite scenes, dissecting details, and speculating on what’s to come. From 2 hours after the show airs, Tumblr is the lead channel (96k posts per hour vs. Twitter’s 75k)…
  • 24 hours after the shows air, Tumblr is two and a half times as active (40k posts per hour, vs. 16k on Twitter), a ratio that sustains for the whole period between episodes

Consequently Tumblr provides a much longer window for networks and brands to engage with the TV audience.

More TV mentions on Tumble than Twitter

More TV mentions on Tumble than Twitter


2. Different social networks for different behaviours: on Tumblr, fans expanding a 30-60 minute episode into a weeklong conversation by immersing themselves in the show’s universe


  • Social TV behavior isn’t just about check-ins and real-time opinions. On Tumblr, we see deeper interaction with TV show narratives, characters and events
  • 71% of Tumblr TV interactions are driven by behaviours related to storytelling, content remixing, creativity and fan community.
  • Tumblr activity is highly visual: 72% of posts about the TV shows are driven by visual content.
  • In particular, animated GIFs create highly shareable TV content. 41% of discussion about TV shows is made up of animated GIFs, but they make 62% of the most-shared posts.

The animated GIF format provides a way for fans to “narrate” and re-live key moments in the episodes they’ve watched, or express their feelings in “reaction” GIFs in response.

3. TV content on Tumblr is highly shareable, both within and beyond the Tumblr platform


  • 94% of Tumblr posts about TV shows are reblogs, driving huge distribution across the Tumblr network. Top social TV posts can go viral within the Tumblr platform, achieving a velocity of up to 16,000 reblogs per hour
  • Tumblr reblogs allow fans to add their comments to a piece of content, and a social TV conversation can develop
  • Consequently top pieces of content live for much longer on Tumblr. While the top TV tweets reach 50% of their total activity in just 1.8 hours, Tumblr content
  • More Tumblr content is shared on Twitter than from any other platform (48k Tumblr shares during the period tracked, compared to 40k YouTube shares, 20k Instagram and 19k Facebook)
Tumblr remains at 33% of on-air buzz three days after broadcast

Tumblr remains at 33% of on-air buzz three days after broadcast

“The Social TV on Tumblr study shows very clearly that different social networks are for different kinds of social TV interaction. One of the key findings here is that Social TV, especially on Tumblr, doesn’t just mean real-time second screen behaviour but sustained and deep audience engagement over time. And that represents a massive opportunity for networks and advertisers.” – Francesco D’Orazio, VP Product at Pulsar

For a copy of the Social TV study including visuals, please click  here: Tumblr Social TV Research Paper

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