Best of Social TV 2020

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Unprecedented, unexpected, unbelievable - to state an inarguable (and maybe overused) fact one last time, none of us were expecting what 2020 had in store.

One thing that could be counted on, as the year wore on, was how much more screen time we’d all be adding to our day. With people around the world homebound for a good part of the year, film and television viewing saw quite a boost. By the second half of 2020, TV streaming had increased 25%.

With tons of new series premiering (anyone else super into chess now?), old faves returning (Derek Shepherd is back?!), and some long standing shows seeing their sunset (we’ll miss you, Dunphy’s!), there was plenty to watch. Despite stop-and-starts amongst COVID-induced filming hiatuses, 2020 may still have delivered TV at its peak-iest. At least, that’s what the social media conversations are saying.

Each year, Social Content Ratings releases their lists of the Top Social TV according to social conversation and engagement. The results are in, and in this instance 2020 did not disappoint. The top programs saw millions of engagements, with many new series getting just as much buzz as returning hits. From “The Last Dance” to “Dancing With The Stars”, the results show that TV and movies provided a welcome respite to audiences (and a nice way to escape the 24-hour news cycle) during a pretty heavy year.

Talkwalker teamed up with SCR to take a deeper look at the stats this year. Combined with social listening data, we can see how cultural moments, emotional drivers, and product tie-ins impacted conversations around top series, films, and talent in 2020.

Read on for the winners, and see how your favorites shows and movies of the year fared.

The Lists

Top Primetime & Late Fringe Series
Top New Series
Top Scripted Series
Top Premium Cable Series
Top Ad Supported Cable Series
Top Spanish-Language Prime & Late Fringe Series
Most Talked about Streaming Original Series
Most Talked about Streaming Original Movies
Top Prime Series Talent Overall
Top Spanish-Language Prime Series Talent
Top TV Specials
Top Sports Events

Top Primetime & Late Fringe Series

Best of Social TV 2020 - Primetime

Big games and historic matches often take a sizable cut of the most-discussed televised programs each year. 2020 was no exception, with multiple WWE wrestling showdowns making the list for most-engaged primetime events on social media.

But the winner here with more than 4M social interactions per episode aired was the documentary series “The Last Dance”, a close-up look at Michael Jordan and the iconic athlete’s time with the Chicago Bulls. It aired in the early days of the pandemic, giving viewers a light during a dark period of the year.

Talkwalker quick search sentiment data for The Last Dance

Social sentiment for “The Last Dance” was overwhelmingly positive when it aired in April. It continued to drive engagements from viewers throughout the year.

Beloved drama series and reality competitions also ranked high for engagement in social media, with plot twists and surprise guest stars that kept people talking. Longstanding shows like “American Idol” and “Grey’s Anatomy” continued to drive conversations online this year, scooping up over 1M interactions each per episode on average.

Top New Series

Best of Social TV 2020 - New Series

“The Last Dance” topped the list for new series airing in 2020, too, far outpacing other programs in this category. New dramas from HBO like “Lovecraft Country” and “I Know This Much is True” also stirred up discussions online.  

Viewers flocked to Twitter to discuss “Lovecraft Country”, making it one of the most talked about new shows on social media this year.

Another addition to HBO’s roster, “The Undoing”, premiered in late October but still had the second-most total social interactions on average among new series this year. Spinoffs from the “Power” and “Bachelor” universes also drove engagement from their devoted fanbases, as well as the popular Univision reboot of “Tu cara me suena”.


Top Scripted Series

Best of Social TV 2020 - Scripted series

Shonda Rhimes maintained her reign as the Queen of Primetime this year. The showrunner’s hits “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Grey’s Anatomy” generated over 1.5M social total interactions per episode combined. While “Grey’s” took the top spot in the scripted series social rankings, it faced competition from CW’s cult favorite “Riverdale” and NBC’s tearjerker “This is Us”.

Comedies also did well in this category, with shows like HBO’s “Insecure” and NBC’s “Brooklyn 99” giving audiences some much-needed comic relief. And we said goodbye to long-lived primetime shows like “Supernatural” and “Modern Family” which had fans discussing favorite moments and bidding fond farewells on social media.

Talkwalker quick search emoji cloud for Supernatural

This emoji theme cloud depicts some of the most-used symbols by fans when discussing the “Supernatural” series finale on social, with viewers expressing a mix of emotions about the end of its era.

Read: 2021 Social Media Trends

Top Premium Cable Series

Best of Social TV 2020 - Premium Cable

HBO boasts six out of the ten shows in the Top Premium Cable Series category for social engagement. Issa Rae’s brainchild “Insecure” scored the top rank, with nearly twice as many engagements per episode as the next contender on the list. But “The Undoing”, which premiered six weeks ago, also captivated social media conversations.

Talkwalker quick search theme cloud for The Undoing 2020

The above keyword cloud shows top words people used in their posts about "The Undoing", tying to series talent and the show’s plot developments.

HBO’s series - both new premieres and those coming back for another season - generated a lot of buzz. But they faced competition from Starz with the returns of popular programs like “Outlander” and “Power”, two dramas with dedicated social fanbases. 

Top Ad Supported Cable Series

Best of Social TV 2020 - Ad supported cable

Along with “The Last Dance”, the WWE’s wrestlers and Ru Paul’s drag racers captivated audiences of ad supported cable networks on social media. And people were still keeping up with the Kardashians on E! this year, with sentiment analysis showing that fans have a lot of feelings about this season:

 Talkwalker Analytics emotional drivers for Keeping Up With the Kardashians Nov 2020

Emotional drivers in social engagements showed that people have expressed love, anger, joy and other feelings since “Keeping up with the Kardashians” made its return to TV this fall.

 Not all ad supported cable shows were based in reality, though - scripted series with a supernatural bend also came out on top, with AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and Syfy’s “Wyonna Earp” receiving over 300K engagements per episode each.

Top Spanish-Language Prime & Late Fringe Series

Social mentions for Spanish-language series this year were dominated by reality competitions. Univision won this category with six shows in the ranking, three of which are reality series. Telemundo saw similar popularity for “La Voz”, with social posts about it including mentions of fan favorites:

Talkwalker quick search hashtag cloud for La Voz 2020

Top hashtags for social engagements around “La Voz” depict how fans supported their favorite teams and contestants.

Telenovelas were still a staple of Spanish-language programming in 2020. Univision has seen success in recent years with their adaptations of hit international soaps. The popular "Imperio de mentiras”, which netted about 18K social engagements per episode this year, was adapted from a hit Turkish series.

Most Talked about Streaming Original Series

Best of Social TV 2020 - Streaming Original Series

Okay, be honest - how quickly did you binge “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”? Audiences were captivated when Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and their big cats premiered on Netflix this spring, earning the docuseries over 7.5M organic social interactions.

 Talkwalker quick search virality map for Tiger King fan tweet

This virality map for a fan tweet about Tiger King shows how quickly the post went viral online - it hopped from Twitter to blogs, forums, and more. (via Talkwalker)

Netflix has a heavy presence in this ranking category with shows that crossed genres and age demos. The return of “The Crown” had people discussing the Royal Family, and “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” was the only animated show to make this list in 2020. Spanish-language programming did well with the streaming giant’s audiences, with over 1M organic interactions for “Money Heist”.

Most Talked about Streaming Original Movies

Best of Social TV 2020 - Streaming Original Series

It was a good year for documentaries, with multiple entries in the Streaming Original Movies category telling the tales of musicians, celebrities, and political figures that gave audiences a glimpse into their lives. With “Miss Americana”, Taylor Swift revealed a more intimate side of her work and personal life than she usually shares with the public. And the effort was rewarded on social media, with over 900K organic interactions for the film.

People were impressed by Taylor Swift’s vulnerability around both high and low points of her career in “Miss Americana”, and took to social media to share their support.

2020 also saw the return of popular film characters, with both Borat’s antics and Lana Condor’s lovelife making their returns to the small screen and driving social engagement. Spike Lee’s Vietnam War drama “Da 5 Bloods” had nearly 800K orgnic interactions, with conversations seeing an uptick after the tragic death of one of its stars, Chadwick Boseman.

 Sentiment data for Da 5 Bloods - Talkwalker

“Da 5 Bloods” had lots of positive sentiment on social media, but saw a dip following the death of one of its stars in August as people shared their grief online.

Top Prime Series Talent Overall

Best of Social TV 2020 - Primetime Series Talent

Katy Perry has a history with “American Idol”, appearing in guest roles during a few seasons before becoming one of the popular reality competiton’s judges in 2017. This year, she topped the SCR list for Prime Series Talent with a staggering 16.3M engagements for her program-related posts. While several other celeb judges made the final cut, Perry dominated this year to become the most engaging series talent in primetime.

Virality map from Talkwalker for May 17 Katy Perry tweet

News travels fast - this virality map shows how one of Katy Perry’s popular tweets this year traveled through the Twitterverse and received engagement for months.

Cable news personalities got a lot of attention during an anxiety-riddled US election cycle, with Fox News’ pundits Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes seeing high social media engagement with social audiences. Most of the top series talent in 2020 came from the world of reality competitions, but Madelaine Petsch, who plays Cheryl Blossom in the CW drama “Riverdale”, also received a lot of love online from fans.

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Top Spanish-Language Prime Series Talent

Best of Social TV 2020 - Spanish Language Series Talent

Reality stars reigned supreme in many SCR categories for 2020. All three judges of “La Voz” claimed spots in the Top Series Talent list for Spanish-language programs. Show hosts Ana Patricia Gámez (“Enamorándonos”) and Tania Rincón (“Guerreros 2020”) saw lots of social engagement, and people talked about Alejandra Espinosza returning to her roots as the host of “NBL: El reencuentro”, the latest iteration of the reality competition she won in 2007.

A few actors from scripted series were able to bust through the reality competition noise, however. “Te doy la vida” star José Ron made the top five for most-engaged series talent with over 430K owned engagements. Univision star Juliana Paes (“Dulce ambición”) received over 200K engagements, and coronavirus on the set of “Imperio de mentiras” had fans tweeting concerns for actress Angelique Boyer.

 Talkwalker quick search theme cloud for Imperio de mentiras

Along with plot twists and shocking moments, themes in social conversations for Angelique Boyer and “Imperio de mentiras” show fans’ worries about COVID-19 exposure while filming.

Top TV Specials

Best of Social TV 2020 - TV Specials

Despite the forced hiatus taken by the entertainment industry for a good portion of 2020, awards shows celebrated the creative projects that lifted spirits this year. The top TV Specials on social media this year lean heavily on the music industry, with the VMAs, American Music Awards, and the Grammys taking the top three spots in the ranking (and tens of millions of social interactions each)

Talkwalker quick search theme cloud for the 2020 MTV VMAs

This theme cloud for the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards details the celebrities that were most discussed around this year’s show, from performances, to snubs, to those who took home a prize.

The 2020 Academy Awards and Golden Globes saw early social engagement success this year, airing live as planned ahead of lockdowns. While specials like the Emmys, Billboard Music Awards, and Latin Grammys dealt with virtual settings and lost the red carpet pizazz, the shows still got a ton of traction on social media and earned millions of interactions despite the circumstances.

Top Sports Events

Best of Social TV 2020 - Sports

The Super Bowl is routinely one of the most-watched televised events of the year, and in 2020 it was also one of the most engaging events on social media. Nielsen reported that this year’s broadcast had almost 100M viewers, and SCR measured almost 45M social interactions around the big game. Talkwalker dove into the data earlier this year, discovering social trends around the teams, players, and brand tie-ins that made for some pretty viral moments in sports.

And then...COVID-19 happened. Professional athletes were on pause just like the rest of us for much of 2020. The NBA’s comeback this summer was a welcome one, boosting the organization’s social engagement as “the bubble” in Orlando allowed teams to compete once again (albeit to empty arenas).

 Talkwalker quick search theme cloud for the NBA bubble 2020

Phrases like “great”, “win” and “work” show fans’ gratitude for the return of the NBA after COVID-19 put a sudden stop the the season this year in the above keyword map, but “bubble” was one of the most-used words in conversations on US basketball in 2020.

Did your top TV choices this year make the cut? If not, there are plenty of hits to choose from here, and there’s still time left to binge and discuss them online before 2021. So, what’re you waiting for? Get watching!

Social Media Trends for 2021 from Talkwalker and HubSpot


Top Social TV Reporting Methodology

Talkwalker Social Content Ratings, 1/1 - 11/29/20. Series lists ranked by average total interactions* per episode and include series with at least 5 live/new airings in primetime or late fringe. Scripted series exclude reality series, documentaries, talk & news programs, and game shows. New series include programs with season 1 episodes airing in 2020 as denoted by Gracenote metadata. Sports Events and Specials ranked by total interactions per episode across all dayparts. Talent lists ranked by owned engagement**, excludes political programming. Original Streaming series & movies ranked by Twitter organic interactions. Sentiment drivers, thematic data, and keyword trends were determined using Talkwalker’s AI-powered social media analysis tools.

This article has also been posted at Social Content Ratings.

*Total Interactions = Original social media posts across Facebook, Instagram Business/Creator Accounts, and Twitter related to a linear TV episode and the engagement with that content.

**Owned Engagements = Social media activity generated off of the original posts sent by accounts owned or affiliated with TV programming. Owned engagement for Facebook includes comments, shares, and likes. Owned engagement for Instagram includes comments and likes. Owned engagement for Twitter includes retweets, quotes, replies, and likes. 


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