BARB confirms next stage of Project Dovetail

Consultation reveals industry expectations for further development

BARB is responsible for delivering an independent audience currency for the UK television and advertising industry. Our viewing figures are used by advertisers, agencies and programme makers to evaluate their annual investment of £7.5bn in the production and distribution of programmes and commercials.

Dealing with audience fragmentation has been an aspect of BARB’s work since our formation in 1981. Another constant has been the importance for advertisers and agencies of reporting the aggregate exposure of advertising campaigns based on cumulative audience reach and frequency. To meet this need, BARB has a responsibility to report audiences equitably across all media channels.

The rise of online delivery of programmes and commercials has been a catalyst for Project Dovetail; this has the objective of delivering total reach of programme and commercial audiences across multiple screens.

The next stage of Project Dovetail is expected to be delivered in September 2018.

This development builds on the successful beta reporting that has been in place since 2015. The beta phase has delivered data on the number of tablet, PC and smartphone devices being used to watch programmes, both on demand and live streaming. From this September our customers will have access to the number of people that are watching programmes across four screens: TV sets, tablets, PCs and smartphones.

BARB’s method for delivering this relies on combining data from two sources.

Firstly, we collect data from software meters that are installed on tablets and PCs in our nationally representative panel of UK homes. A panel approach is critical as it delivers a single source of observations on how people watch on different devices.

Secondly, we collect census-level streaming data from viewing apps that have been enabled by their owners to deliver duration-based information to Kantar Media, our chosen contractor. This audited measure of online viewing has been delivered in line with best-in-class, joint industry principles.

The development of Project Dovetail means that BARB has established new industry standards for the collecting and reporting of online TV audience data. We have also started reporting TV set audiences for non-linear programming and pioneered the reporting of dynamically inserted advertising.

Building on these developments, BARB is committed to delivering comprehensive reporting of TV set usage. Hours spent in front of a TV set each week have remained stable over the long term, although people are increasingly using their TV sets for watching on-demand services provided by broadcasters and online platforms, including Amazon Video and Netflix.

BARB has also been asked whether our data collection and reporting techniques can be applied to forms of AV content that differ significantly from broadcast media channels. These online video services, such as Facebook and YouTube, are distributed solely through the internet and primarily to smartphones. Content is more likely to be short-form and user-generated, and isn’t covered by broadcast regulations that ensure brand safe environments.

In response to these questions, BARB commissioned a cross industry consultation that comprised 35 interviews with businesses in different parts of the industry; these included advertisers, agencies, broadcasters and social media platforms.

Two points emerged clearly from the consultation.

  • The joint industry currency principles that underpin BARB should not be weakened or compromised; these are independence, objectivity and transparency.
  • The addition of any channels or platforms should not impact on the integrity of BARB’s data collection and reporting methodology.

The consultation clarified that advertisers and agencies expect any cross-platform audience currency to deliver comparability in three important ways.

  • All reported viewing metrics should follow established TV conventions for duration, viewability and verification.
  • Brand safety is paramount; advertisers and agencies expect advertising reach and frequency to be calculated for placements that meet industry-agreed standards for brand safety.(Advertisers and agencies can be confident about brand safety on TV because BARB only reports audiences for services that operate within regulated and, therefore, brand-safe environments. This regulatory framework is underpinned by the European Union directive on Audio-Visual Media Services.)
  • Advertisers and agencies should be able to plan campaign reach and frequency into editorial environments classified by genre/programme and, equally, to verify campaign delivery

BARB is committed to reporting audiences for online TV programmes and commercials, on-demand programmes and dynamically served advertising. The new techniques that we have developed do not sacrifice our guiding principles.

The next priority for Project Dovetail, after the forthcoming launch of people-based cross-platform programme viewing figures, is to deliver an equivalent measure for viewing online TV commercials. This will enable the industry to assess the total reach and frequency of advertising campaigns across multiple screens.

BARB will deliver this in line with the industry’s expectations that have emerged from our consultation process. We welcome discussions with content owners and platforms that want to participate.

Press release from BARB
5th April 2018