The new Sherlock and social media fan culture


We recently posted a blog article that reported on a study by Nielsen in the US. It found a weak relationship between the size of a TV show’s official audience ratings and the number of Twitter messages it stimulated.

We thought this was a great example of the disjoint between traditional media research and the new field of social data analytics.

Our post reflected on the contrast between poor early audience ratings for Star Trek in the 60s, and its future billion dollar value as a content franchise.

We are finding that the concept of ‘Future Content Franchise Value’ can help us see what social media data is telling us about evolving audience relationships with TV, radio, music and film.

We also think that ‘second screen’ activity is changing how audiences relate to linear TV content.  Each of these points seem to be connected with the phenomenon of social media fan culture.

To explore this idea further we analysed 120,000 Twitter messages generated by the first episode of the new Sherlock series, aired on 1st January 2014.

We used our latest semantic analysis techniques to identify key patterns of attitude and behaviour before, during and after the show. Our main findings are:

1. Emotional responses to Sherlock were complex, layered, often contradictory and constantly changing in response to on-screen characters, narratives and action

2. Binary emotional or evaluative metrics such as generalised ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ sentiments can give a misleading picture of viewer experiences

3. Social media fan culture related to a TV show is indicative of longterm content franchise value

You can download an teaser version of our Sherlock report here in Powerpoint format. If you think it’s interesting and would like to see more of the report we’d be delighted to hear from you.

You can reach Colourtext directly by emailing

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