New BARB system 'to bring ratings growth'

Thursday, November 26 2009,

The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB) has outlined a new TV ratings system to be introduced next year, which could trigger an increase in viewing figures.

Coming into force on January 1, 2010, the tweaked ratings system includes a more representative geographical design, along with a completely new viewing panel.

In a trial run of the panel in 5,100 homes during a four-week period up to November 8, BARB reported that channels were found to have a 4% higher rating compared to the existing arrangement.

As broadcasters continue to struggle under a tough advertising market, the increased ratings could provide a boost to their fortunes in 2010.

While unveiling the new system, BARB chief executive Bjarne Thelin claimed that it will provide the TV industry with "gold standard currency".

"Much of the new system is similar in concept to the current one, but there are important changes, including a completely new viewing panel - so there will be some differences in the output," he explained.

"In a parallel-run assessment, overall viewing to BARB reported channels is around 4% higher, comparing the new BARB panel to the existing BARB panel."

BARB - jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, Sky and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising - said that the new system is not a radical overhaul, but rather a refinement of the operation already in place.

When implemented next year, it will cover 300 itemised channels and a selection of minority channels grouped as "other viewing".

The new panel is designed to give a better representative of the UK population, including more accurate ethnic profiles and a greater understanding of multi-platform homes.

A new regional map will ensure that there are no overlapping territories and full coverage of catch-up viewing on Virgin Media and Sky will be factored into figures.

Programme viewing via non-TV on-demand platforms will still not be included in the ratings, but Thelin said that a test panel to cover specific PC and laptop viewing could be created in the future.

"While BARB 2010 won't be a radically different service at the outset, flexibility for the future has been created by changes in structure and methodology. We have our eye on the future and know the service will keep on developing," Thelin said.

"BARB has to be completely satisfied with any techniques before we can consider incorporating them into the core service - we will continue to ensure the integrity of the core service, and to maintain the integrity and clarity of our data."