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The bigger picture

4 October 2011

The BARB Measurement Sciences Forum was launched today by Chief Executive Bjarne Thelin. At a presentation in London today (4 October) he appealed for more involvement from across the television and advertising industries in order to develop the potential of television measurement, and facilitate the coordinated use of additional data and so keep the measurement of television together – creating ‘the bigger picture’.

‘We think there could be a problem generated,’ Bjarne Thelin said, ‘by the fact that there will be so many holders of data sets, and indeed so many data sets to be created from various routes of return – even from within a single household. We need to prioritise a “fuller view of the universe” – recognising the strengths of the BARB panel approach to audience measurement and “to see where there is greater detail” by recognising the opportunities of new connected data sources. The limitations of both types of data also need to be understood. There needs to be more coordination over industry-agreed definitions for new data sources, and more common purpose. Otherwise, the industry may end up with separate collections of incompatible data sets that are just floating around in empty space, occasionally bumping into each other.’

Mr Thelin stressed that BARB is owned by the industry and aims to meet the collective needs of the industry in an objective and independent manner. He described the core television audience measurement service and its variety of inputs – transmission logs with details of transmitted programmes and commercials; references of all reported stations and actual broadcast outputs; viewing records from about 12,000 people every day for every minute of the day, on around 30,000 viewing devices – and the importance of the system being people-based.

BARB’s tracking studies suggest that around 98% of domestic TV viewing still occurs on TV sets, particularly with HD and big screens. ‘However,’ he said, ‘extending BARB’s service to enable viewing capture beyond the TV set is now becoming deliverable. BARB is unashamedly a survey organisation but we may need to have some more involvement in activities of data aggregation, or data mining, to help formulate the industry approach.

‘We see it as important,’ he continued, ‘to prioritise ways in which types of viewing as reported by BARB can be matched with batches of server data and activity logs that are, in all likelihood, held by lots of different organisations. And probably not shared, either because organisations won’t share, because of business issues, or can’t share, because of data privacy.

‘BARB already provides the means for broadcasters to identify opportunities and competitive threats, to see where else their own viewers are viewing, where they may be tempted to go in the future, or where they may be persuaded from – as well as the analyses that can be run on advertising campaigns and inventories.

‘We see an opportunity to liberate server data and, with panel data, give it greater meaning for the industry as a whole. Identifying batches of server data relating to specific slices of content or output and defining these equivalent slices of content, programming or commercials within BARB data needs common standards and definitions. The level of detail we’ll be able to capture will be dependent upon the level of industry priority and cooperation there is. Unless we persevere with this as an industry ,we’ll end up in a few years’ time in a state of enlightened confusion – enlightened because we’ll have lots more data, but confused because we’ll have lost some of the basic meaning of it.’

Mr Thelin invited the audience – comprising advertisers, agencies, content producers, broadcasters, platform operators, research suppliers – to come together to form a working group of methodological experts, data structure and definition experts, and data holders.

‘We hope through our development projects that are now delivering solutions, to create the opportunity for the industry to be better informed, to track new types of content, to see beyond the TV set, and to pursue the enhanced solutions for connected TV. We want to enable coordinated reference points to the separate systems that organisations are building to assess their own server data. This could counter the danger that different assumptions will be used in different places to produce different numbers that are not comparable with each other. We need a converged mindset to deal with the new converging world of data.’

As well as headline presentations from BARB’s Chief Executive, Bjarne Thelin, its Research Director, Simon Bolus, and Richard Foan, Communications & Innovation director at ABC, a panel discussion took place, chaired by Nigel Walley, Managing Director of Decipher Media, with Patrick Barwise, Emeritus Professor of Management and Marketing at the London Business School; Neil Mortensen, Research Director at Thinkbox; and Steve Wilcox, Managing Director of RSMB.

Abridged versions of the presentations given by Bjarne Thelin and Simon Bolus are available:

BARB The Bigger Picture – Bjarne Thelin

BARB Creating the Bigger Picture – Simon Bolus

BARB Measurements Sciences Forum

Media enquiries to Sheila Thompson on 0207 591 9610 or at

Notes for Editors

BARB ( started reporting UK television audiences in 1981, providing the industry-standard audience measurement service for television broadcasters and the advertising industry. It is a not-for-profit limited company owned by BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, BSkyB and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

BARB provides in-home TV viewing measurement for the UK. This is obtained from a panel of 5100 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, PVR and VOD playback is incorporated where it matches to an originating transmission within 7 days (Consolidated Viewing).

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 in a home are measured, including peripheral devices such as games consoles, PCs, and Set Top Boxes. BARB measures both analogue and digital delivery via cable, satellite and terrestrial distribution.

BARB’s strategic priority is to extend its reporting beyond the current viewing definitions of TV sets and 7 days from transmission while maintaining the standards and credibility of its core service which delivers an industry-relevant, quality-assured, dependable and progressive Gold Standard Television Audience Measurement Service for the UK.

In June 2011 BARB announced the roll-out of a new web TV measurement service, aiming to be extended next year with an estimated 2800 people participating. BARB also has a number of pilots in operation, including the examination of viewing that is not live or 7-day catch-up (the non-linear database); server and return path data initiatives; and the measurement of connected TV devices.