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The Most Social TV Shows of 2016

Variety logo Variety 12/20/2016 Todd Spangler

For truly rabid social fans, nothing on television came close to #PLL this past year.

Freeform’s “Pretty Little Liars,” which will enter its seventh and final season next year, far and away was the No. 1 show in terms of overall social engagement across major platforms, according to an analysis by research firm ListenFirst Media for Jan. 1 to Dec. 15, 2016. In fact, engagement for the show increased 25% versus the same period in 2015, to register more than 256 million interactions for 2016.

“‘PLL’ has consistently been at the top,” said Meghan Cahill, ListenFirst’s head of TV strategy. “The storyline, especially going into their final season, has helped amplify their social engagement despite the algorithmic challenges from each of the platforms.” The teen drama does particularly well on Instagram, which accounted for 82% of its total social engagements, she said.

The two next biggest TV shows overall were both on cable: AMC’s “The Walking Dead” notched 144.86 million engagements, and MTV’s “Teen Wolf” had just over 70 million.

Among new shows, Netflix had a strong showing in 2016 on the social front. The streamer’s “Stranger Things,” “Haters Back Off” and “Fuller House” each landed in the top 10 for overall social engagement, while “Stranger Things” also was No. 1 in the freshman class on fan growth with 4.35 million new followers. The most social new show of the year was Freeform’s teen urban fantasy series “Shadowhunters” with an engagement score of just north of 60 million.

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Also performing well in 2016 among newcomers was TBS’s “Full Front with Samantha Bee,” with the former “Daily Show” correspondent scoring well in social engagement, fan growth across platforms, and total video views on YouTube. “She’s got the trifecta across social engagement, community growth and video views,” said Jason Klein, co-founder and co-CEO of ListenFirst Media. “It’s great content that resonates.”

The political season, culminating in the confrontation between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, was a real boon for all the late-night shows on social and video platforms, Klein pointed out.

NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” was the top returning broadcast show in overall social engagement for 2016, and it came in No. 2 for fan growth with 8.5 million and clocked an industry-leading 2.4 billion views on YouTube. “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on CBS led the pack of returning shows on fan growth with nearly 8.9 million new followers, and delivered 1.7 billion YouTube views, while ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” notched about 1.5 billion YouTube views (but didn’t crack the top 10 on overall engagement or fan growth).

ListenFirst’s overall “social engagement” score is a consolidated measure of public engagement on social media for the following types of activity: fan growth, content responses, and conversation volume (across Facebook, Instagram and Yahoo’s Tumblr). The research firm’s “fan growth” metric measures new fans and followers gained on official show accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.

Note that the ListenFirst data excludes data from Twitter because Nielsen has an exclusive arrangement with the social service for publicly released TV-related numbers. However, Klein said, factoring in Twitter metrics would not change the overall rankings in the 2016 study. In addition, the ListenFirst data does not include Snapchat activity, as Snap Inc. does not share metrics with third-party researchers.

As for what all the social chatter is worth in terms of revenue, research has shown a correlation between TV ratings and social activity while results vary for individual programs. According to Klein, the large followings TV shows can amass on social platforms are now turning them into revenue streams unto themselves, as opposed to just promotional vehicles.

“I’m pretty confident that the amount of money TV networks have been able to make on social networks is higher than it’s ever been – although that’s still a fraction of they get for TV advertising,” he said. “But whereas social was all about audience development… now we’re seeing many networks with communities of tens of millions of fans selling ad opportunities against that.”

Returning Series, Social Engagement Score

  1. “Pretty Little Liars” (Freeform): 256.75 million
  2. “The Walking Dead” (AMC): 144.86 million
  3. “Teen Wolf” (MTV): 70.55 million
  4. “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (NBC): 65.78 million
  5. “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (ABC): 59.08 million
  6. “Empire” (Fox): 44.72 million
  7. “The Daily Show” (Comedy Central): 44.07 million
  8. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC): 39.68 million
  9. “Game of Thrones” (HBO): 39.66 million
  10. “The Voice” (NBC): 34.31 million

Freshman Series, Social Engagement Score

  1. “Shadowhunters” (Freeform): 60.78 million
  2. “Stranger Things” (Netflix): 12.99 million
  3. “Lucifer” (Fox): 10.19 million
  4. “This is Us” (NBC): 9.20 million
  5. “Haters Back Off” (Netflix): 6.75 million
  6. “Fuller House” (Netflix): 6.63 million
  7. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS): 3.71 million
  8. “The Shannara Chronicles” (MTV): 3.11 million
  9. “Queen Sugar” (OWN): 2.41 million
  10. “Atlanta” (FX): 2.17 million

Returning Series, Fan Growth

  1. “The Late Late Show with James Corden” (CBS): 8.86 million
  2. “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (NBC): 8.49 million
  3. “WWE Raw” (USA Network): 6.96 million
  4. “WWE Smackdown” (USA Network): 6.36 million
  5. “Game of Thrones” (HBO): 5.43 million
  6. “The Walking Dead” (AMC): 4.96 million
  7. “The Voice” (NBC): 4.02 million
  8. “America’s Got Talent” (NBC): 3.54 million
  9. “Saturday Night Live” (NBC): 3.41 million
  10. “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (ABC): 3.31 million

Freshman Series, Fan Growth

  1. “Stranger Things” (Netflix): 4.35 million
  2. “This Is Us” (NBC): 1.56 million
  3. “Fuller House” (Netflix): 1.12 million
  4. “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS): 1.10 million
  5. “Shadowhunters” (Freeform): 1.09 million
  6. “Legends of Tomorrow” (The CW): 994,218
  7. “Lucifer” (Fox): 805,995
  8. “Westworld” (HBO): 651,527
  9. “Luke Cage” (Netflix): 536,672
  10. “Atlanta” (FX): 470,902

Source: ListenFirst Media, Jan. 1-Dec. 15, 2016

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