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BARB marks 25 years of TV reporting

31 July 2006

August 1st marks the 25th anniversary of the start of television audience reporting in the UK by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), in 1981.

BARB was founded by the BBC and ITV companies. The two then started to use BARB’s independently produced industry-standard television audience figures rather than the separate viewing estimates they had each previously issued.

To mark this anniversary, BARB will be posting on-line (www.barb.co.uk) a year-by-year summary of major developments in television, and in the BARB service, since 1981.

Since 1981, BARB reporting has grown from three channels to 227 in 2006.

In 1999, BARB was restructured. It is now a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, with a membership comprising BBC, ITV, Channel Four, Five, BSkyB and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA). Its chief executive is Bjarne Thelin and its chairman is Nigel Walmsley.

A number of significant developments have taken place in television since BARB started reporting in 1981:

  • launch of satellite and cable services
  • launch of digital viewing platforms
  • changes to the shape of television sets, including wide screen and, more recently, flat screen variants
  • timeshift viewing which became a reality in the late 1970s but which has developed to the situation today where digital video recorders (DVRs/PVRs) offer advances in timeshift opportunities, with greater ease and flexibility of recording and playback
  • the emergence of transaction services via subscription or pay per view
  • significant expansion of viewer control options starting with the now-ubiquitous remote controls through to greater choices in equipment and services

BARB has absorbed new challenges throughout its 25 years. For example, VCR and, more recently, DVR/PVR figures have been incorporated into BARB reporting, and multi-channel analogue and digital platforms have also been introduced into its measurement.

The first BARB panel was 3000 homes. The current panel is 5100 homes which reports for approximately 11,500 people daily. This represents more than 80,000 days’ viewing across a week.

More recent landmarks have included monitoring of flat screen TVs, the facility to report sponsored programmes, and the introduction of VOSDAL reporting (Viewing On Same Day As Live) which includes same-day playback from VCRs and DVR/PVRs into overnight reporting of ratings.

As television continues to develop, BARB is committed to looking ahead in order to provide the best possible service for the industry. The ‘Future Into View’ consultation, the development of scenario projections – both shared with the industry by way of public presentations – and the launch of an exploratory programme regarding potential measurement techniques have all contributed to BARB’s forward thinking about the way that the audience measurement process may need to develop.

BARB is also announcing the first stage in its formal process for awarding new research contracts from 2010 this week.

Notes to Editors

BARB started reporting in 1981 to provide the industry-standard audience measurement service for television broadcasters and the advertising industry. It is a not-for-profit limited company owned by BBC, ITV, Channel 4, five, BSkyB and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

BARB provides in-home TV viewing measurement for the UK. This is obtained from a panel of 5,100 homes. These homes return data from around 11,500 viewers. Viewing from visitors to the home is included (Guest Viewing). Viewing figures are available to subscribers the morning after transmission. VCR and Sky+ playback is incorporated within 7 days of transmission (Consolidated Viewing). Audiences are reported on a minute-by-minute basis.

The panel design is representative of the whole of the UK. People are recruited from all sectors of the population. All viewing environments in the home are represented. Multiple TV sets are measured. BARB measures both analogue and digital delivery via cable, satellite and terrestrial distribution.

Issued by Brown Lloyd James on behalf of BARB. Media enquiries to Deborah Coleman on 020 7 591 9619 (deborahc@blj.c.uk)