The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) provides official viewing figures for UK television audiences. It commissions specialist research companies Ipsos MORI, Kantar Media and RSMB to collect data that represent the television viewing behaviour of the UK’s 26 million TV households.
BARB viewing data give broadcasters, advertisers and other interested parties a minute by minute breakdown of viewing at regional and national levels. This information is vital in assessing how programmes, channels or advertising campaigns have performed and provides the basis for airtime advertising trading.Read more
In order to estimate viewing patterns across all TV households, a carefully selected panel of private homes is recruited. Each home on the panel represents, on average, about 5,000 TV homes. These panel homes are drawn from a household sample that is designed by RSMB to remain representative of all television households across the UK. This means it always encompasses the full range of demographic and TV reception variations, amongst other variables, that are found across the country and in different ITV and BBC regions.
To account for the constantly changing UK population profile and TV environment – and because some of the information needed is not contained in the Census data – Ipsos MORI conducts the BARB establishment survey on a continuous basis to measure changes in UK household characteristics. This is important to account for the constantly changing UK population profile and TV environment and also because some of the information needed is not contained in the Census data. The panel homes themselves are then recruited by Kantar Media, drawn from a representative sample provided by the establishment survey. This ensures that any changes in UK household characteristics are reflected in the BARB panel.
In every panel household, all television viewing is monitored automatically by special metering equipment installed by Kantar Media. Included in this process is viewing of recorded programmes that are watched within seven days of the original broadcast; this is referred to as timeshift viewing. More than 30,000 viewing devices are monitored across the panel of over 5,100 homes, including PVRs, DVDRs and VCRs, as well as standard set-top boxes.
Residents and guests in a panel home register their presence in a room containing a television set that is switched on, which is the BARB definition of television viewing. They then deregister when leaving the room. In this way, the meter records all viewing by every person in the household aged 4+, adding individual demographic information to the overall viewing data. This information is uploaded automatically to BARB every morning between 2am and 6am where it is processed to apply various statistical adjustments.
Each day at 9.30am the data are released to the TV industry as overnight viewing figures. Eight days later, consolidated audience figures are released, incorporating any timeshift viewing from the previous seven days. In both cases this minute by minute viewing information can be matched to the programme and advertising schedule to give viewing estimates for every programme and commercial that has been broadcast.
This consolidated information is the BARB gold standard on which the UK broadcasting and advertising industries rely for all reporting and trading.