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Field tests for interactive measurement

23 May 2006

BARB’s Chief Executive, Bjarne Thelin, today confirmed that a new measurement technique is starting field tests. It has been devised for the identification of the use of interactive applications.

Speaking at the ‘interactive tv advertising show’ at the CBI Conference Centre, Bjarne Thelin outlined the development of the technique and its potential for expanding BARB’s measurement of interactive services. Currently, interactive applications are identifiable by BARB if they constitute a separate broadcast stream on the digital satellite platform.

Visual barcoding is the new technique aimed to extend measurement within and across platforms. It will enable, for more interactive applications, an assessment of reach of viewers using interactive content and time spent in the services. Broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies are anticipated to find an extended service valuable.

The technique was conceived by BBC R&D (now BBC Technology Group) and, over the past two years, has been developed with BARB and AGB Nielsen Media Research.

Over this period, the technique has moved from concept, through development of processes to create the barcode, development of techniques to detect the barcode, and now to the creation of a barcode meter device for use in BARB panel homes.

The technique involves the insertion of a ‘visual barcode’ on to the bottom four lines of the active picture area in interactive applications. In virtually all homes the barcode will not be visible as most TV screens overscan the picture area to this degree.

Barcoding has passed a number of stages of testing on digital terrestrial and digital satellite platforms. BARB hopes to be able soon to confirm that the technique will also be applicable on the digital cable platform.

‘The movement to field testing will demonstrate whether barcoding is viable in a range of different home configurations,’ said Bjarne Thelin, ‘and validate that there is no impact on BARB’s ability to generate measurement of viewing from these homes.

‘The field tests are anticipated to continue through to July. We hope that we will then be able to determine whether to expand the use of the technique throughout the full range of digitally enabled BARB panel homes. This will depend upon an assessment of whether the technique can deliver a valuable service to the industry.’

Rollout to the BARB panel would take a number of months, and would need to be supported by the development of code management and reporting systems which are currently in prototype design.

If a decision to go ahead is made, it is anticipated that the reporting of figures may be able to start formally in Spring 2007.

Funding for the testing of the technique is being provided by BARB’s underwriter broadcasters – BBC, ITV, C4, five, and BSkyB.

Notes to Editors

BARB was set up in 1981 to provide the industry-standard audience measurement service for television broadcasters and the advertising industry. It is a not-for-profit limited company.

BARB provides in-home TV viewing measurement for the UK. This is obtained from a panel of 5,100 homes. These homes return data from around 11,500 viewers. Viewing from visitors to the home is included (Guest Viewing). Viewing figures are available to subscribers the morning after transmission. VCR and Sky+ playback is incorporated within 7 days of transmission (Consolidated Viewing). Audiences are reported on a minute-by-minute basis.

The panel design is representative of the whole of the UK. People are recruited from all sectors of the population. All viewing environments in the home are represented. Multiple TV sets are measured. BARB measures both analogue and digital delivery via cable, satellite and terrestrial distribution.

Media enquiries to Sheila Thompson or Debbie Coleman at Brown Lloyd James (020 7 591 9610, or