BARB Explained

BARB Explained: How we collect device-based census data

14 December 2018

In the first part of this BARB Explained, we looked at how we collect viewing data from the BARB panel. Now let’s explore how we collect device-based census data from PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Together with Kantar Media, we work with broadcasters to embed software code into their broadcaster video-on-demand (BVOD) services across different online platforms; this process is often called tagging. The tagging implementation is independently audited by ABC to ensure the data meet our standards. Whenever anyone in the UK watches a programme, be it live or on-demand, through a tagged BVOD service on a PC, tablet or smartphone, the embedded software code generates online TV viewing data showing what has been watched, and for how long. This census-level approach means there is a negligible margin for error.

These census-level data tell us the number of PCs, tablets and smartphones that are being used to watch programmes, but they cannot tell us the number of people watching or who they are; for this, we need the BARB panel. By combining these two sources of data, we can produce multiple-screen viewing figures.

Does our new insight into multiple-screen viewing behaviour change our understanding of television viewing behaviour as a whole? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is no; the multiple-screen viewing figures show that the TV set is still dominant. For every hour that we collectively watch a TV set, we watch a PC, tablet or smartphone for just 47 seconds; that’s a 1.3% uplift. The chart below illustrates that the peak time of day for viewing on PCs, tablets and smartphones is 9pm, reflecting the TV set peak; this shows that regardless of the device used, watching television is still predominantly an evening activity.

Source: BARB, January – September 2018
Note: TV set viewing is plotted on a separate axis to device (smartphone, PC and tablet) viewing.
Data are for identified viewing to BARB-reported channels on TV sets / tagged BVOD services on devices. Device data are census data.

To find out more about how we combine these two sources of data to produce multiple-screen viewing figures, check out this BARB Explained.