Social Media Sentiment Analysis Sheds Light On the Ways We’re Watching the Super Bowl

Kimberly Surico |
 02/03/16 |
3 min read


Of the 114.4 million people who watched the Super Bowl last year, 1.3 million streamed it through NBC’s website.With the countdown to Super Bowl 50 underway, what can social media listening tell us about consumers’ thoughts on viewing via cable — and will last year’s streaming experience convince cord cutters to rethink their decision?

What social media listening reveals about cord cutting

Insights from NetBase’s platform reveal that at -50%, overall sentiment towards cord cutting is mostly negative, with the word “linger” dominating the attribute cloud:


However, when we exclude retweets, it becomes apparent that this negativity stems from shared articles on the lingering threat of cord cutters to Disney’s share prices. The increasing number of people opting to stream has cost ESPN more than $2 billion in subscriptions, which is (naturally) concerning for anyone invested in Disney’s sports empire.

ESPN is bundled into consumer packages whether they watch it or not, so each cord-cutter means less money for ESPN — even if that cord-cutter never watched a game. But while TV bundles might incentivize people who don’t watch sports to make the switch, it’s causing those that do to hold back. The loss of live sports is one of the primary concerns for potential cord cutters, as some of our clients point out:

“My husband and I are contemplating getting rid of DirectTV because the cost has become ridiculously outrageous over the course of the last 3 years. The only thing holding him back is that he would have to give up watching sports,” says Becky Rehwaldt.

“I was going to cut cable and just get NHL Network but apparently they black out a lot of local games in the same way the NFL does,” adds Katherine Jacoby.

Social media listening gives us valuable insight into what people are thinking when they consider cutting cable. Consumers are associating the term with the streaming services they can rely on — not the ones they can’t.  The brand cloud for “cord cutting + streaming” shows that streaming giants Netflix and Amazon are dominating the discussion:


When we look at how people feel about cord cutting in relation to brands, our social media sentiment analysis shows that negative sentiment is dominated by ESPN and the NBA. It’s not a surprise – with sports like hockey, small local games, and college sports often absent from sports streaming packages, fans have no choice but to keep cable.


So how does the Super Bowl fit into all this?

The Super Bowl experience

Gathering ’round a big screen with friends is as much a part of the Super Bowl experience as the commercials – but if last year’s chatter is anything to go by, both experiences are compromised by online viewing.

One of the biggest complaints among online viewers of last year’s Super Bowl was that the commercials were blacked out. NBC sold ads for TV and streaming separately, and not all brands bought both. Of note, 198 million people use AdBlock to avoid having promotional material pushed at them online, so the fact that missing the commercials was such a concern shows how integral they are to the Super Bowl experience.

Another major complaint was the delay between TV broadcast and web stream. This meant social media became a minefield of spoilers, and people streaming in apartments could hear celebrations (and commiserations) from their neighbors before they could see what had happened.


While the CBS website (pictured) is making a concerted effort to promote all ways of viewing the Super Bowl – from Xbox One to Chromecast – they need to have learned from NBC’s mistakes last year if this year’s live stream is to be a success.

As Will Oremus points out, “live coverage of events is NBC’s core business” — and last year’s volume of traffic should not have been a surprise, considering the Super Bowl’s popularity and the rise of streaming in general. If NBC’s network wasn’t capable of handling that volume of traffic, they should have known in advance. Social media sentiment analysis could have provided a good indicator as to how people planned to watch.

And that’s something TV’s sports giants need to take to heart if they want to win against the cord cutters. They need to pay attention to what their audience is saying online, and up their game by embracing the digital options their viewers want. And they need to get it right. That means less lagging, more choices, and a thorough consideration of the experience itself – commercials and all.

What does your audience have to say about the Super Bowl, and how can you leverage that to produce content they’ll love? Request a live demo of Audience3DTM to find out.

Image from Kathy Drasky

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