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 haven't shaken off viewing habits that were formed in analogue times.
So the challenge is to embrace new means of measurement that can work in tandem with tried and trusted techniques. At the same time, we need to ensure 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 is on the rise. This could be a desktop, a laptop or perhaps a more mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone.
In 2012, BARB established a programme of tracking viewing through desktop and laptop computers using a web-TV meter that has been developed by Kantar Media. Installing these meters on computers in our 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 now installs the web-TV meter in all new panel homes. There are now almost 800 homes in which we can report viewing on desktops and laptops as well as on traditional television screens. BARB is also planning to deploy a solution for measuring our panellists' viewing on tablet computers. Roll-out should commence in the first quarter of 2014.
Reporting protocols for computer viewing are being finalised with the objective that publication of this data can start when we have completed deployment of the tablet solution in all homes that have the web-TV meter installed. This aim is to start reporting by the summer of 2014.
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 has been 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.
The first stage of the project has been to appoint Kantar to work with broadcasters on embedding programme and advertising content with metadata tags. These will be collected to provide a census-level report into the popularity of content delivered through IP. First published reports are expected by the summer of 2014.
The second stage of the project is the award of a contract to integrate the census data with the viewing figures that our users are already familiar with. An invitation to tender was published in the summer of 2013, responses to which were received at the end of September 2013.
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 by the summer of 2014.
Going beyond seven days: Digital technology has made it easier for viewers to record their favourite programmes on the occasions that they know they can't watch them live. It has also made it possible for them to watch programmes 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 and has recently built further on this reputation. Since July 2013, users of BARB data have been able to understand viewing that takes place up to four weeks after broadcast. The new reporting format for 8-28 day timeshifted viewing is in addition to the established gold standard figures that comprise viewing in the seven days immediately after broadcast.
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