Broadcasters' Audience Research Board
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (February 2009)|
The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB) is the organisation that compiles audience measurement and television ratings in the United Kingdom. It was created in 1981 to replace a previous systems whereby ITV ratings were compiled by JICTAR (Joint Industry Committee for Television Audience Research), whilst the BBC did their own audience research.
BARB is jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. Participating viewers have a box on top of their TV sets which tracks the programmes they watch.
Currently, BARB have approximately 5,100 homes (equating to approximately 12,000 individuals) participating in the panel. This means that with a total UK population of 58,789,194, according to the 2001 census, each viewer with a BARB reporting box represents over 5,000 people. The box records exactly what programs they watch, and the panelists indicate who is in the room watching by pressing a button on a remote control handset. The data is collected overnight and published as overnight ratings at around 9.30 the following morning for use by TV stations and the advertising industry. The following week, final figures are released which are a combination of the overnight figures with "time-shift" figures (people recording a program and watching it within a week). For programmes from December 15, 2014 onwards, BARB has begun publishing viewing figures for a period of 28 days after the original broadcast.
BARB numbers are extremely important to commercial television stations. The trading model that is used by television companies and advertising agencies depends on the number of people watching the shows, and the commercial attractiveness of those people. The advertising agency will pay the television station a certain amount of money based on the number of people watching a show. The BARB numbers are used to work this out. Higher BARB numbers usually mean more advertising revenue for the television station.
This leads to some interesting situations on the smaller channels. Since there are many television stations, and many hours in the day, there can be situations where BARB will record zero viewers for certain program. As the TV advertising system is geared round BARB ratings all but the very smallest channels subscribe to BARB.
BARB's current research contracts have been awarded to three different market research companies: RSMB, Ipsos MORI, and Kantar Media. The contracts run from January 2010 to the end of 2015, with options to extend further.
RSMB are responsible for survey design, quality control and calculation methodology. Ipsos MORI's role is to survey the characteristics of the television owning population, including an element of direct recruitment to the viewing panel. Kantar Media is responsible for establishing and maintaining the new BARB viewing panel. It has a separate contract covering meter panel installation, data retrieval, processing and audience reporting functions.