Summary:

In a broadcasting industry plagued by, yet obsessed with, what some concede is faulty audience measurement, the BBC is taking it upon itself…

BBC iPlayer
photo: Dan Taylor

In a broadcasting industry plagued by, yet obsessed with, what some concede is faulty audience measurement, the BBC is taking it upon itself to count a programme’s every view, including online and on-demand.

The BBC’s system, which is in its “early stages of development”, will account for iPlayer views and transmitted repeats in year-end metrics.

“‘Consolidation’ as it is called (adding in the videoed/PVR’d figures for 7 days after broadcast) has been included in the BARB service for some years and there are rules that the TV industry agree on,” writes BBC Vision research head David Bunker. “But the audience can now access our content in so many different ways … The audience increasingly don’t care when or where they see a programme – and we need to keep up with them.”

Bunker says the BBC will present the metric in a way consistent with BARB’s existing numbers. “This is all very well for us audience geeks, but how will we get ‘overnight addicted’ TV types to take notice? Well we’ve decided to create a new metric – 7 days after the day of broadcast (the same as the current BARB consolidation window) which we are calling Live Plus 7 and which will include all the viewings (live or recorded) across conventional television and on demand.”

The new counting will certainly lead to higher audience numbers for shows. “For episode one of The Apprentice, 6 million watched it live as it went out, and a further 900,000 watched it back the same day – both figures already accounted for in the overnights,” Bunker writes. “But over the subsequent 7 days a further 3.1m watched the same episode either from a recording, on iPlayer or from the narrative repeat – giving a Live Plus 7 figure of over 10 million. Episodes 2 and 3 also accumulated to above the 10 million mark.”

This week, Ron Jones, chairman of Tinopolis, one of the UK’s largest independent TV producers, told the House of Commons’ Welsh affairs committee that industry-standard BARB’s metrics are inaccurate and not fit for purpose.

In 2007, BARB, ABCe and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising joined with the BBC, BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), BT (NYSE: BT) Vision, Channel 4, Five, ITV (LSE: ITV) and Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) to establish a “rights metric” for measuring “IPTV” including simulcasts, streams and downloads – a not-insignificant undertaking. But things with the Broadband Measurement Working Group, the group they formed to tackle the problem, have gone quiet since then.

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