Project Dovetail


The UK television industry has changed beyond recognition since BARB’s launch in 1981. Since then, BARB has continuously developed its services in response to fragmenting behaviour patterns. There has been a proliferation of platforms, channels and catch-up services, and in recent years more people have started to watch television through the internet.

BARB’s objective continues to be based on our customers’ requirement for a comprehensive and trusted measurement of viewing to programme and commercial content, regardless of delivery platform. To this end, our development strategy is focused on providing a joint-industry, audited measure of total reach across all devices.

Project Dovetail delivers this strategy by combining the strengths of the data that we collect from our representative panel of people with data collected from the devices that are used to watch this content:

  • BARB’s panel of 5,100 homes delivers representative viewing information that includes programme and campaign reach, demographic viewing profiles and measurement of viewers per screen. Every time a home joins our panel, we install software meters that track its viewing on personal computers and tablets. This technology is now installed in 60% of our panel homes.
  • BARB collects device-based census data for online TV viewing and has been publishing the UK’s only fully-audited, joint industry measure of online viewing since September 2015. The viewing figures are generated from software code that’s been added to a wide range of TV player apps. This software generates a device-based measure of what’s been watched and for how long.

There are four deliverables to Project Dovetail:

  • Generate device-based census data for online TV viewing: BARB achieves this through software code that’s embedded in TV player apps used by viewers. Over 30 different platforms have implemented this software and been audited by ABC to ensure the data meets BARB’s standards. The results are reported each week in The TV Player Report.
  • Determine how people watch on personal computers, tablets and smartphones: Software meters are installed on the personal computers and tablets of our panel members. These software meters deliver information about what has been watched on these devices and who was watching. Currently, 60% of eligible homes on the panel have these software meters installed; we are exploring how this might also be installed on our panel members’ smartphones.
  • Establish a fusion methodology: Dovetail Fusion will blend the data generated in the previous two steps. Kantar Media was appointed to deliver Dovetail Fusion in February 2017. It’s scheduled to launch in 2018.
  • Work with return path data: Set-top box data offers similar benefits to the online TV viewing census data that BARB is collecting. BARB has conducted successful pilot projects with data from Sky homes and expects to start further pilot projects.

More than ever we are working to create innovative ways of delivering the services that our customers expect. At the same time, we can’t step away from the rigour which is in BARB’s DNA. We’d love to keep you up to date with progress, so please sign up to receive updates.