18 tons of nuts – that's what it took in 2007 to get the TV series "Jericho" back on the screen after the US-network CBS had cancelled it after the first season. More than 88,000 fans signed a petition and organized their protest on a special website. And soon after the campaign had started, network officials decided to give the show a second chance.
A little bit later, CBS decided to pay more and closer attention to what its viewers were thinking. However, with the traditional paper-based survey filled in by customers this could not be achieved. So they turned to social media analysis and sentiment analysis to be able to monitor what their viewers are saying online on channels like Twitter or Facebook about their shows.
For this purpose, CBS is leveraging a solution developed by Bluefin Labs, an innovative big data analytics company founded by Deb Roy, MIT associate professor of media arts and sciences. Originally, Roy wanted to teach computers English just the way humans would learn a language. For this reason, he invented data-driven methods for analysing and modelling linguistic and social behaviour – an analytic microscope in his own words. The idea to develop these methods into a commercial service for the advertising and entertainment industry was born when Roy and Michael Fleischman, one of his PhD students, were analysing online conversations covering sporting events. "We took the principles of big data, data mining, and visualization and turned that microscope in my house into a telescope to look at the world of social media as it relates to television", Roy explained recently.
With this kind of sophisticated big data analytics, TV networks could soon follow viewers' discussions taking place on social media channels or public fan websites in near real-time. Thus, they will be able to gain unprecedented insights into their customers' preferences which can help them to adjust promotions for their shows or even revise story lines during a season. Deb Roy will highlight in his keynote on "the power of data" at this year's Teradata Universe Conference in Dublin how companies from all industries could benefit from analysing big data. Readers who can't wait will find some hands-on examples of social TV analytics at Bluefin's blog.