The Barb panel

What is the Barb panel and why is it important?

The Barb panel provides a trusted, objective view of the entire nation’s viewing habits.

We draw on two sources of data to deliver the UK’s television audience ratings: the Barb panel and big data sourced from devices.

While we like big data, it has its limitations: it can’t identify who is in front of the screen and the type of person they are. This is critical for our clients to understand programme reach, demographic viewing profiles and the number of viewers per screen.

To truly understand viewing, it’s critical to understand people. This is where our representative panel comes into its own.

The Barb panel is a sample of carefully-recruited households, selected by geography, demographics and TV platforms, to mirror the entire UK.

It’s continuously vetted and managed too. Each week we interview 1000 households to see if the profile of the panel is current, and tweak our data weighting accordingly to ensure we accurately reflect the nation.

And with the media moving so quickly, we’re evolving too. We’re expanding the panel to 7,000 households, which is about 16,000 people, providing daily insight into who’s watching what, on which device, and for how long.

So, whatever you do in the media industry, our gold-standard currency is here to give you the trusted and rigorous intel you need to guide your decisions.

How do we know what people watch and who is watching?

If you’re in the media business, Barb’s here for you. Our Gold Standard audience measurement tells the story of the UK’s viewing habits.

Our insights help TV producers and broadcasters to make investment decisions; ad agencies and brands to plan effective ad campaigns; and industry stakeholders to evaluate how media services operate in the public interest.

But how do we know so much about what people watch?

It all starts with our representative panel. It’s a sample of carefully-recruited households, which accurately reflects the entire nation.

Our tech is vital too. So we know who’s watching television, a meter is attached to each TV set in panel homes.

People in these homes use a special remote with dedicated buttons for each household member – and guests – to confirm who’s watching. They press the buttons when they leave or come back into the room.

To determine what’s being watched, the TV-set meters take audio samples of the sounds on panelists’ TV sets and convert these to digital fingerprints. Every night, we retrieve the fingerprints and match them to a reference library of TV content.

There is also a meter attached to the WiFi router in panel homes to track viewing of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) and video-sharing services by any member of the household on any device.

We also capture device-based big data whenever anyone in the UK watches a broadcaster’s video-on-demand (BVOD) service on a connected device.

So, as the total viewing universe expands, we can take you on a data-powered journey through it, revealing the many ways TV can be watched, be it live, pre- and post-broadcast; on TV sets, tablets, PCs and smartphones; on broadcast channels and their BVOD services, or on SVOD and video-sharing platforms.

Barb: the industry’s standard for understanding what people watch.