Facebook conducted a study with help from Nielsen to show the correlation between social activity on the platform before, during and after NFL games and TV tune-in times. On Wednesday, it released the findings of the study, for which Nielsen analyzed data for nine NFL games between October and November 2015.

Facebook

Facebook and TV tune-In

Nielsen looked at Facebook activity in the 15 minutes leading up to the game and found that shares and posts are strong estimators of tune-in. The study found that an increase of one post during the time frame correlated to approximately 250 additional viewers in the first minute of game action, and an additional share in the same time period correlated to 1,000 viewers.

In addition, the strong positive correlation was seen between Facebook shares and TV viewership. Nielsen data indicates that after the initial 25 minutes of the broadcast, the association was greater for Sunday night NFL games. Last year’s Super Bowl XLIX had shares from 65 million unique users, making it Facebook’s most-discussed sporting event globally in 2015.

The study also observed that in the closing minutes of the game and afterwards, people increase their Facebook activity surrounding the game while viewing goes down. This inverse viewership suggests that it is possible for Facebook to extend the life of sporting events even after they are over.

Sports Stadium making a contribution

Recently, Facebook released Sports Stadium, which is a devoted hub that hosts game-related content. Finding content from friends and their comments on plays is among the main features of the hub. Even marginal increases in the number of posts and shares due to Sports Stadium have an exponential impact on viewership numbers, the study suggests.

Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships, Dan Reed, said, “We believe that fan engagement and content sharing at this scale, distributed to millions more via friend networks on Facebook, drives awareness and tune-in for live sports broadcasts.”

Though the results are encouraging, it is true that correlation does not prove a connection. The possibility exists that Facebook usage is just reflective of the interest of NFL fans who were already planning to watch the game. In 2014, Twitter and Fox conducted a similar study in which they found that 92% of Twitter users took an immediate action after seeing a tweet about a TV show.