How to Determine a Show's Overall Success with Emotion Measurement

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The Challenge

When it comes to primetime emotional roller coasters, these days nothing tops NBC’s This is Us. So when NBC looked back at season 1, it was critical to understand the Emotional Reactions that were driving their success. NBC chose Canvs for the job, because it allowed them to analyze audience emotions quickly and accurately from numerous vantage points.

In the following case study, we show how NBC used Canvs to:

  • Determine how This Is Us performed compared to other primetime series.

  • Analyze the season as a whole as well as by episode to determine which emotions were expressed most frequently and how they trended over time.

  • Find out which characters and and cast members were the top drivers of Reactions across the season and specifically for the finale.

  • Capture the moments and specific scenes of the show that were sparking the most emotional responses.

Our Approach

First, we identified all of the social sources NBC would like to track for conversations about This is Us and integrated their data into a study. These included Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

Next, we used Canvs to analyze the following metrics for a period of +/- 3 hours from the linear airtime window during the season finale and other episodes of Season 1:

  • Total Reaction Volume

  • Total Reaction Rate

  • Core emotions that surfaced

To determine how fans were feeling, what they were feeling, and when they were feeling it, we looked at the show’s season finale and compared it to other primetime shows. We used Canvs’ Compare feature to analyze the competitive landscape.


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Canvs provides an early, trusted read on how audiences are feeling about just-announced TV series ahead of receiving survey or focus group research.

Key Takeaways


Nearly 5% of the audience said that This Is Us made them Cry, which is 6X more than the typical primetime broadcast series. The show’s premiere introduced many of the emotions that would play out during the rest of the season, emotions such as Love, Crazy, Excited, Sad and Cried.


The This Is Us Reaction Rate was 29% higher than the average primetime series. For the period from Sept. 20, 2016 – March 15, 2017, the show’s emotional response rate was 29% higher than the average among primetime series on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the CW.


This Is Us’ Top Driver for the entire season was the character of Jack Pearson, responsible for 4.1% of all Reactions. Jack caused people to express a variety of emotions from the onset of the show. In the finale, Jack generated 14.4% of all Emotional Reactions.


The season finale was the most-Tweeted about non-sports TV program in the U.S. on March 14. The season finale was the most-Tweeted episode of the show, with 105,000 Tweets posted from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET, which is 58% more than the previous episode and over 35% of those expressed some sort of emotion. Love being the top emotion, followed by Crazy and Excited.


The insights in this case study were originally published in Variety on March 15th, 2017.

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