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David Pidgeon 

Connected Consumer conference: BARB's 'hybrid' strategy

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The audience research community has welcomed news that BARB, the official source of television viewing figures in the UK, is to collect census data for TV viewing through all computer devices, including tablets.

Speaking on a panel this year's Connected Consumer conference, BARB's chief executive, Justin Sampson, showcased details of 'Project Dovetail', which has seen the appointment of Kantar Media to help the organisation measure IP delivered services.

The panel, which also included UKOM's James Smythe, Research the Media's Richard Marks and Videology's Catherine Hallam, were impressed that BARB is looking to complement the viewing data for over the air transmissions, which still represents the majority of television viewing in the UK's 26 million households, with data from digital platforms.

Sampson, in an exclusive Newsline article, explained that the first step in what he describes as a new 'hybrid future' is to actually continue making the most of the BARB panel.

"Our electronic tracking of minute-by-minute viewing for over 12,000 people provides a wealth of insight into television viewing," he writes. "We might not provide real-time data, but daily reporting means there is plenty that is current in our currency.

"Enhancements to the panel are needed to open the way to a hybrid future. Some of these are well established, while others are now being actioned."

Since late last year, all new BARB panel homes have had software installed that allows the organisation to know what is being watched on desktop and laptop computers.

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Crucially, this software also tells BARB who is watching and over 10% of the panel is now equipped with a Web-TV meter in addition to TV set meters.

"Early analysis shows that viewing through computers is less likely to be a group experience," says Sampson.

"The average number of viewers for each session is 1.1, rather than the 1.4 we are used to seeing for an average viewing session on a TV set. It's clear that viewing through computers is a small part of overall viewing. 1% at most on current measures."

However, it's essential that BARB also knows who is watching on tablets and smartphones and a solution is now close to hand, says Sampson. "Subject to successful field testing, this could be installed on all iOS and Android devices in BARB panel homes by the end of the year."

Additionally, BARB has plans to extend its panel to include homes that don't have televisions but do have a broadband connection. This is described as a small but growing proportion of the country.

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"Collecting evidence from our representative panel of actual viewing behaviour on computer devices is one critical input to a hybrid system. The other vital input comes from the metadata tags that broadcasters add to their VOD and live-streaming content.

"Capturing these tags will give BARB a census-level database that reports the actual number of devices that are accessing content delivered throughout internet protocols."


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