Throughout BARB's history, television broadcasters have used new technologies to enhance viewers' enjoyment of their favourite programmes. This story of continuous progress includes improvements to picture quality, delivery of a greater choice of channels and making it more convenient for viewers to watch programmes at a time that suits them.
In parallel, BARB has pursued the progressive development of its audience measurement system. Our strategy has been unwavering. Put simply, it is to measure and report all television viewing that takes place in the home.
So what's next on the agenda?Read more
The internet revolution of the last 20 years has been the source of many innovations. Information delivery through a telephone line, touch screen interactivity and intuitive content apps are notable in that they are starting to have some effect on viewers' relationship with their television sets.
UK broadcasters and platform operators have built on these features of the internet in compelling ways. TV Player apps and EPGs that allow viewers to go back and forward in time are prominent developments to help them watch what they want at their convenience.
BARB's priority is to identify new measurement techniques that allow tracking of these new forms of viewing. Equally, we need to recognise the enduring importance of established patterns of viewing behaviour. While the distribution of television is now completely digital, people continue to follow viewing habits that were formed in analogue times.
So the challenge is to embrace new means of measurement and reporting that can work in tandem with tried and trusted techniques. At the same time, we need to keep a focus on ensuring that the quality of our reporting meets the industry's expectations of the gold standard that we provide.
In this context, BARB has three strategic development priorities.
Going beyond the television screen: Television screens continue to dominate the nation's viewing, although the use of computer screens has been on the rise. This could be a desktop, a laptop or perhaps a more mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone.
Last year BARB established a programme of tracking viewing through desktops and laptops using a web-TV meter that has been developed by Kantar Media Audiences. Installing these meters on computers in our core panel homes will deliver new insight into how viewing is taking place across different screens in the home.
Following an extensive programme of work from proof of concept onwards, BARB is committed to rolling the web-TV meters out to 600 of its panel homes. As the rollout of the technology continues, the industry is determining reporting protocols in advance of the results being published.
Alongside this established development, BARB is actively considering ways in which this capability can be extended to include viewing through tablets and smartphones.
Going beyond seven days: Digital technology has made it easier for viewers to record their favourite programmes on occasions that they know they can't watch them live. It has also made it possible to watch programmes that they forgot to record or, perhaps, didn't realise that they wanted to record.
For many years, BARB has been a global pioneer in reporting viewing that takes place after the original time of transmission. Seven day consolidated ratings are seen to be the gold standard definition of audience levels to programmes and commercials.
To take our service forward, BARB is in the final stages of determining how we can report on viewing that takes place more than seven days after the original transmission. Proof of concept and pilot work has been completed to the satisfaction of BARB and our underwriters. The focus is now on establishing how the reports can be produced most effectively within the context of established data delivery timetables.
Working with other data sources: Many of the new forms of television are characterised by their use of internet protocols. While this form of distribution may represent a relatively small proportion of television viewing now, we have to recognise the changes in data delivery speeds through both broadband and mobile networks. This is likely to make these types of viewing experience more attractive and more common.
The opportunity this provides to BARB lies in the metadata that can be embedded in the programme and advertising content delivered through this platform. Collection of this information will not reveal who is watching, but it will accurately identify the number and duration of viewing sessions.
Project Dovetail is being launched by BARB with the objective of bringing this site-centric data together with the viewing data that comes from our established panel of homes. This will make the most of the complementary strengths of the two sources of insight through an integration process that leads to unified audience reporting.
This is an important project in the long-term development of television audience measurement. We anticipate having more news on next steps in the project during the first half of 2013.
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