From Social Content Ratings to Sentiment Analysis: The cultivation and commodification of affective television engagement

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Abstract

In this article, I analyze the evolution of Nielsen’s Social Content Ratings (SCRs), including their increasing amalgamation into the engagement economy. SCRs ultimately work to subordinate fans’ participation to the discursive authority of marketing teams, curating fan behavior to make it more commodifiable. In this way, SCRs fit into the larger emergence of affective economies that seek to not only measure affect, but cultivate it, to take advantage of the commercial potential of emotional investment. In the second part of this article, I discuss how television producers have reframed programming around the pursuit of social buzz. I analyze three series: MTV’s The Challenge; Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars; and the ABClicensed award show, The Oscars. Whether it be invoking viewers’ investment in intra-cast feuds, engrossing fans in ‘OMG’ moments, or drawing fans in with viral celebrations of stardom, digital campaigns are geared toward strategically commodifying affect. Ultimately, I demonstrate how Social-TV analytics make explicit the entanglement of technology and creativity that underpin the term ‘engagement’. I end by discussing the recent sale of Nielsen Social to social listening firm, Talkwalker, and what the integration of social-TV analytics and AI means for the future of engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-293
Number of pages25
JournalParticipations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies
Volume18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

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