New service tracks online interest in TV

Will measure engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google

Web site creation service Wetpaint has launched a measurement system that tracks fan interest in popular TV shows.

Billed as the first measurement tool of its kind, TV Fandex tracks the level of "fan engagement" of popular programs on Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Wetpaint's own network of 1.5 million user-created fan sites.

"It's clear there is a fundamental decentralization under way in how consumers experience TV programming, but the measurement tools have remained substantially the same," Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz said. "Fans now have the tools to connect and evangelize, and they are using them with gusto. The TV Fandex provides networks and producers with the first gauge of the winners and losers in creating and retaining an online audience."

The first week of public Fandex rankings show HBO's "True Blood" receiving the heaviest online engagement, followed by CBS' "NCIS," Fox's "House," Showtime's "Weeds" and Fox's canceled fan favorite "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." Fandex.com plans to release weekly Top 100 rankings.

There are existing ways to measure a brand's online popularity, including BuzzMetrics from Nielsen, the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter. Fandex is billed as the first system built specifically around providing an apples-to-apples comparison of TV series interest among social media networks.

"We need to solve the problem of which shows have fan enthusiasm, not just across the TV dimension," Elowitz said.

Broadcasters recently have seemed more willing to extend the lives of struggling shows that have heavy online fan interest. NBC's "Chuck" and Fox's "Dollhouse" received renewals after demonstrations of intense fan appreciation, though Fox's "Terminator" was unable to garner a pickup. According to Wetpaint, the most engaged viewers spend up to five hours a week discussing a single episode of a program.

Although networks have largely been unable to monetize online popularity, a show having strong Web buzz generally results in more traffic for a network's site, higher DVD sales for the program's studio and a deeper level of brand engagement that can attract advertisers seeking integration opportunities.
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