Despite many of its regular characters ditching the programme for more lucrative gigs on rival channels, the Essex express is far from running out of steam, it appears.
TOWIE’s fourth series debuted last night on ITV2 with a respectable 1.047 million viewers (down from 1.56m from the series three opener), but it was on Twitter that the structured reality behemoth really flexed its muscles.
Indeed, eager tweeps fired off an astounding average of 60 Essex-related tweets a second during the broadcast - 15 tweets a second more than related to the 2011 X Factor final while it was on ITV1 in December. The tweet-fury peaked in the minute before the show began with 88 tweets per second at 9:59pm.
In total, TOWIE garnered a huge 160,000 tweets while it was airing between 10pm and 10:45pm last night*, according to data exclusively supplied to RadioTimes.com by social media analysts tellybug.com.
In comparison, series three of the show, which premiered on 25 September last year, could only muster a total of 90,000 tweets during its opening episode – with even the grand finale of the series only managing 107,000 tweets. Likewise, Top Gear on BBC2, which also began a new series last night with more than four times as many viewers, only attracted 33,000 related tweets during its hour on the air.
The most popular trending phrase during last night’s The Only Way Is Essex was rather predictably #towie, which cropped up on the social network nearly 100,000 times during the broadcast. Other popular phrases engulfing the Twittersphere were “Nanny Pat”, “Without Mark”, “Arg” and “Lydia”.
Tweet of the night came from the fingers of one of the show’s biggest stars, Joey Essex, who attracted massive retweets for his trailblazing message: “Can’t wait for Towie who’s ready for the 4th series!” just before transmission.
Other big-hitting tweets included: “It's a bit sad that Arg doesn't have his real best mate to turn to anymore. #TOWIE” from entertainment journalist Dan Wootton and “Woah! Hold the front page...Arg and Lydia have broken up? Gutted for them #TOWIE” from the official The Only Way Is Essex Twitter account, which has over 300,000 loyal followers.
So, despite a drop-off in the "live" viewer ratings, ITV2 certainly still have something to smile about with TOWIE, an internet 2.0 show through and through, with big on-demand numbers and an engaged audience like no other on British TV. These remain attractive qualities for potential advertisers, and for this reason, it would seem The Only Way Is Essex has a few more series in it yet...
*stats include 30 minutes before and after broadcast