BARB Explained

BARB Explained: The router meter solution

15 January 2019
Project Dovetail FAQs

In the first part of last month’s BARB Explained, we saw how the meters attached to TV sets, PCs and tablets in panel households enable us to identify who is watching television and which device they are using.

These software meters, together with the device-based census data we collect from PCs, tablets and smartphones, mean we can track viewing regardless of when or how a programme was watched. But there are still some types of viewing that are opaque to us, and this is why we are testing a new technology as a possible solution: router meters.

Router meters are attached to the broadband routers in panel homes. They solely track streaming activity on the services that BARB is interested in – regardless of whether these services are BARB-reported – by any member of the household on any device. Naturally, this has to be with panel members’ agreement.

Router meters have the potential to enhance our reporting in three ways.

Firstly, they could provide greater precision in our existing reporting by enabling us to distinguish whether post-broadcast timeshifted viewing was done through a BVOD service or via playback of a PVR recording. Currently we can only make this distinction in Sky homes; router meters could help us extend this more granular reporting to all panel homes.

Secondly, router meters would enable us to measure our panel members’ viewing on smartphones. At present, we don’t track this, as smartphone users are selective about which apps they install, and our panel members may not wish to have software meters installed directly on to their phones. Router meters would close this gap.

Finally, router meters offer us the potential to report viewing at an aggregate level to SVOD operators like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video or online video platforms like YouTube, all of which are yet to sign up to BARB’s measurement system. These services currently account for a significant portion of unidentified viewing (TV set viewing that BARB cannot identify), which itself now makes up almost 20% of TV set viewing – so router meters would help us to deliver more comprehensive reporting of TV set usage.

We are currently trialling two different router meters. One is in our core panel and comes from Kantar, the research agency that manages our panel of homes. The other is from Nielsen – which has begun to report viewing to Netflix in the US using a similar solution – in a separate, specially commissioned panel. Watch this space for updates on our tests.