Thursday, January 23, 2014

How they get those TV figures - All about BARB


Yesterday evening at once was the  home to LWT (now part of ITV)  I attended a pretty packed event
The view from Southbank last night
where it was promised that some of the mysteries of the audience measuring body BARB would be revealed.
The talk was called "You watch it, we measure it” – BARB’s current and future strategies for TV audience measurement".







Those TV charts
Over the years if you're living in the UK I expect you've seen those TV audience figures in the papers that proclaim Only Fools ands Horses got a record audience or The BBC wins Christmas.

Well the news is that they're not total fiction but a statistical  extrapolation from a sample audience that have their viewing behaviour tracked.





TV audience research has been used for many years with a strong history in the USA with the advertiser customers there  being  the prime movers for the requirement to get delivery of  what is hoped to be the unbiased figures that help set prices for the sale of TV and radio airtime (Nielsen are the historic pioneers)

BARB are the people who collect and collate this information for the TV industry and last night at the Southbank two of their big shots gave something of a presentation on what they do and how they'll transition to a more sophisticated system that more closely fits our multi-media consuming ways.

The first person to speak after a full introduction by Norman Green  was Nigel Sharrocks, who is the Non-Executive Chairman BARB and has a wealth of advertising experience (he's also fed up with being called Mr Fiona Bruce) Nigel is newish to the job and seems to be keen to get more of a profile for BARB, after Nigel we had the  Chief Executive of BARB  who is Justin Sampson, Justin has worked in media for many eyars including time at ITV where he was Director of customer relationship marketing.

BARB have a sample audience across the UK of around 12,000 people in about 5,000 TV households and these are the described as The Panel.

It is intended that The Panel offers a good representation of the makeup of the UK demography and their is some churn as you'd expect but a balance of membership of the various societal groups within our nation (the UK)  is preserved as people leave and join.
The LWT building where RTS sessions are held
An average panel household can expect to receive around £250 in vouchers per year as a thank-you/incentive for the intrusion and effort required by them in providing usable data.

As our media usage becomes more fragmented and the lines between the TV and Computer/tablet/phone becoming increasingly open to interpretation the idea of just measuring one static TV set  looks less worthwhile and BARB's project Dovetail is the answer to what a TV home has been doing in terms of viewing.
Dovetail will hopefully catch all the catchup and Youview outings as well as the IP TV delivery that is beginning to be a factor, one of the presenters though did admit under questioning that the size of the 'pool' meant that Local TV outside  of London would probably not be captured by BARB means.

BARB has been in existence for around 30 years and was preceded by JICTAR it is not interested in analysing why people watch what they do when the TV is on or even if they're really watching (I reckon if I was on their 'panel' something like 5% of my viewing would actually be through closed eyes).
The presentation was slick but did perhaps assume too much in the audience attending having more than a basic understanding of the devices and methods used in collecting the data,  they were though careful not to bombard us with toomany  figures (I did though note that something like 11.3% of UK TV viewing is by 'timeshift' - a higher figure than I would have guessed).

As we all hear so often we are in the age of big data but TV audience figures do not tell too  much of a story by themselves, questions from the audience pointed out the significance of what was happening before and after a particular 'show' (which is of course part of the TV schedulers art)  but weather and family occasions too (for example) will impact our patterns of viewing - so the data needs tyeing together to other information to be of real value.

They kept using the term 'Gold Standard'


I will continue to take the figures with a pinch of salt as we (the audience) are not one big anonymous lump of people but individuals who watch for a variety of reasons with a mixture of engagement levels which need some anthroplogical type tools to extract the real story of what and how we watch (C4's Gogglebox is an education on this!)


Try this Boots!


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