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‘This Is Us’ Finale: ‘Love’ Was Top Viewer Emotion for Divisive Episode

Variety logo Variety 3/15/2017 Todd Spangler
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While the season-one finale of NBC’s hit drama “This Is Us” generated disparate audience reactions, one thing is certain: It’s been the No. 1 show on TV in terms of giving fans the feels.

For Tuesday night’s episode, “Moonshadow,” 35.2% of posts on Twitter about “This Is Us” expressed some sort of emotion, according to Canvs, an emotional-analytics startup. “Love” accounted for 25.5% of emotional reactions measured by Canvs, followed by “crazy” (11.4%) and “excited” (9.1%).

In the first five minutes of the episode, about 22% of all responses expressed “excitement.” Near the end of the finale, when Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) first sees Rebecca (Mandy Moore) singing at the club, “love” spiked among viewers, accounting for over 30% of emotional responses during a five-minute span. In the final moments of the episode, 20% of responses mentioned Jack during his impassioned speech to Rebecca, prompting emotions like “cried” (3.9%) and “sad” (2.4%).

Of course, viewers had more negative emotional expressions, too. “Dislike” represented 5.2% of all responses, followed by “hate” at 2.5%, “annoying” at 1.8%, and “angry” at 1.6%. But according to Canvs, many of those were fans voicing unhappiness that the first season of “This Is Us” was over.

Love it or hate it, “This Is Us” is a clear winner in getting a reaction. For the period from Sept. 20, 2016 – March 15, 2017, the show’s emotional response rate was 29% higher than the average among primetime series across ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the CW, according to Canvs. Nearly 5% of the audience over that time said “This Is Us” made them cry, which is more than six times what’s typical for a primetime broadcast series.

According to Twitter, the “This Is Us” season finale was the most-tweeted episode of the show, with 105,000 tweets posted from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. ET — up 58% from the previous episode. It was also the most-tweeted about non-sports TV program in the U.S. for March 14.

To track emotional engagement with TV shows, Canvs uses thousands of different words, phrases, emoji and slang terms and maps them to 56 different emotional responses. For the analysis on “This Is Us,” the Twitter data is supplied by Nielsen Social.

NBCUniversal is a customer of Canvs, and the programmer has used the startup’s data to inform its promotion and social-marketing plans for “This Is Us” and other shows. Last fall, the NBCU research team used the Canvs data to track how users on Facebook and YouTube were reacting to new series announcements, and saw that awareness, opinion and passion levels for “This Is Us” were well above average.

The Canvs data provided “an early, trusted read on how audiences are feeling about just-announced TV series ahead of receiving survey or focus group research,” said Benoit Landry, senior director of program research at NBCU.

WATCH: The cast of ‘This Is Us’ on how the show has changed their lives

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