TV audience figures – the fury continues


My anger with TV audience figures has just been further inflamed. I’ve just read that Red or Black lost 1.8 million TV viewers last night. It’s big news in the media news at the moment.

1.8 million TV viewers. This is calculated from BARB, which distribute TV set top boxes which analyse TV usage in a few homes around the country. These figures are then extrapolated to the UK population – each set top box represents 5,000 viewers.

So 1.8 million fewer viewers is actually 360 people. 360 people didn’t want a TV programme last night, which has commercial repercussions across the industry.

I still can’t fathom how such an antiquated system is used to define the UK’s £9bn television industry (that figure is from 2005).

I propose that all set top boxes – Virgin, Sky, BT Vision, etc. are required to send viewing stats back to a central location, probably Ofcom and actual figures are used, not extrapolated figures. We could go one step further and require all digital TVs to send usage stats back to Ofcom too.

It is unthinkable that a commercial website operation would not implement an analytics provider as a measuring tool – and have to pay for it themself. Quite how this happens in the TV industry is very strange.

Photo courtesy of Stefan on Flickr

1 thought on “TV audience figures – the fury continues

  1. Interesting one this. I believe that all these providers do collect stats and the BARB are only one way of viewing what’s happening. The problem is that not everyone has a set top box, many many people use freeview which are not "connected" and so you lose integrity as how would you compare a programme only shown on Sky where you could collect good quality data against something on ITV where you may only capture a smaller percentage. For it to be industry stats where programmes are ranked there must be a fair playing field and that is why the sampling method is used. The families selected are profiled such that there usage is statistically representative of the general populous and they know their entire viewing is being surveyed (for more than just viewing figures I imagine). Which brings me to the second point being one of opt in or out. Can you force people to allow their viewing to be captured and used for anything public or do you have to provide an opt out process in which case you start to lose integrity of the data?

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