Top Gear & social TV: how much say does the Twitter critic have?


Bank holiday Monday saw the hotly anticipated reboot of BBC’s Top Gear. The reviews are out and social media critics have branded the show “Flop Gear”. But how important is the social TV critic?

4.4 million tuned in to watch hosts Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc present the wildly popular show on Monday night. From its 8 o’clock start time, consumers began tweeting 140 character reviews which largely consisted of jibes at the former TFI host and his inability to not shout at the camera, internet memes showing Jeremy Clarkson’s reaction to the show and longing for Amazon’s “The Grand Tour” – the new show of Clarkson, May and Hammond.

With Chris Evans having already been tipped by bookies to be for the chop as soon as the new series finishes, it begs the question of how much influence actually came from the jibes on the twittersphere, versus the show and its viewership.

Whilst the viewing figures weren’t as high as host Chris Evans had hoped, 22.8% of the available audience watched the show, making it the most watched programme in its time slot. Phill Swann, publisher of has put a case forward in the past that a high level of social-media traffic associated with a program doesn’t correlate closely with a program’s likelihood of attracting a big viewing audience. Swann explained, “I think all it does is measure noise and buzz.” For example, someone might tweet about not liking the look of the show these days, but it doesn’t mean they even watched it.

The changing landscape in traditional media and TV has given broadcasters more to think about than ever before. So much so that at the beginning of this year, media-data company Nielsen developed a tool that analyses consumers’ behaviour watching live TV in real-time, or watching later using catch up TV. Tracking includes measurement of posts, tweets, engagement, reach and demographics. The company is expanding on its existing partnership with Twitter, and will begin analyzing data from Facebook in early 2016 to create new “social content ratings.” Data from Instagram will also be added into the mix in the near future.

You can’t deny that Top Gear received high levels of engagement; it is certainly at the forefront of conversations today. But it will be impossible for the broadcasters to ignore the mass sentiment. So does this mean the BBC will want to appease internet opinions and terminate Evans’ position on the show, despite the promising early viewing figures? Only time will tell. We’ve included some of our favourite Top Gear twitter reactions below: