BARB Explained

BARB Explained: Understanding how people watch on PCs and tablets

20 March 2018

In last month’s BARB Explained, we looked at how we collect the online TV viewing census data that go into our TV Player Report. These data represent total viewing across PCs, tablets and smartphones, but they don’t tell us about the people doing the viewing. How do we know who they are and how many people are watching? To find this out, we must go to BARB’s nationally-representative panel of homes.

Many European countries use several panels to monitor viewing on different devices. In contrast, BARB’s strategy is to have a single-source for how people watch on different devices. This has the advantage of generating better inputs, as BARB meets the need for deduplicated reporting of programme and commercial audiences across multiple screens. We also have to consider that combining data from multiple panels is likely to result in less precise demographic profiles, which are key for our customers.

This is why the majority of the 5,100 homes on our panel have software meters attached to their PCs and tablets which track their online TV viewing; panel members must register who, and how many people, are in front of the device.

The panel data provide valuable demographic context for the TV Player Report’s census data. For example, the chart below shows the age profile for total viewing time to BARB-measured TV player apps via PCs and tablets in 2017. It illustrates that for all viewing via computer devices, around a quarter came from 16-34s – who only account for 15% of all TV set viewing. For All4, this figure was even higher, at almost 41% of all viewing, highlighting the demographic differences between the online players.

We don’t yet track panel homes’ viewing on smartphones. Smartphone users are selective about which apps they download, so they may not wish to have software meters installed on their phones to monitor their viewing in this way. We believe that the risk of panel homes deciding to leave due to the perceived intrusiveness of a smartphone measurement system is not matched by the reward in collecting these data, as smartphone viewing makes up a tiny percentage of total television viewing. PC, tablet and smartphone viewing as a whole add just under 1.5% to TV set viewing, and we know that less than one-fifth of this is on a smartphone. We are exploring the use of router meters as a method of monitoring a household’s viewing across all devices, including smartphones.

In the meantime, if you want to find out more about online TV viewing, check out our white paper.