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Measuring television ad breaks

14 July 2006

There have been recent reports that ad-break viewing, rather than just programme viewing, is about to be reported in the US for the first time. This is seen as a major development which allows a clearer indication of the actual viewing of commercials rather than of the overall programme.

This has been a feature of the UK market since before BARB was established in 1981. BARB would like to take this opportunity to clarify a number of established features in the reporting of UK television viewing.

  • BARB reporting of viewing in the UK is available at minute-by-minute level. For the purposes of commercial trading, individual transmissions of advertising spots on a channel are aligned to the viewing figure for the relevant transmission minute (of the spot, for that channel).
  • BARB viewing includes playback of timeshift material where this is at normal speed only. This is the case for VCR, and PVR/DVR reporting. Fast forwarding of commercials is excluded (this is also true for any programme material).
  • BARB viewing data are collected electronically using meters that are connected to all equipment attached to a TV set – so that the broadcast or playback material on screen can be automatically identified.
  • Where people are searching between channels, and do not stay tuned to a particular channel then viewing will not be assigned to a channel.
  • BARB’s definition of viewing, more correctly ‘opportunity to see’, is based on a person’s presence in the room with the television switched on. Viewers leaving the room de-register their presence, and register on entry. The people data are aligned with the data from the TV equipment to produce viewing data by demographic groups.

Notes to Editors

BARB was set up 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 across 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.