Hybrid methods structure future

With reference to Torin Douglas’ article (MW February25), just because BARB is an industry vehicle it doesn’t mean to say that free enterprise can’t function.

If a small channel like Granada’s “Breeze” wants a proper electronic measurement vehicle it only has to add meters to the BARB system, skewed to its universe and even target audience. S4C has been paying for and upweighting Welsh speakers for years.

If we assume the BARB contract is worth 10m a year and has 4,500 homes, then each home costs about 2,250. If “Breeze” wants 100 homes, ie about 250 people reporting on its own universe, then it will cost just under 250,000.

As a consequence of this investment it can sell advertising based on the results of the standard research vehicle. To make the sale it doesn’t have to use individual spot data; what’s wrong with reach, daypart coverage, schedule delivery and so on, all more statistically reliable.

If Breeze feels it doesn’t warrant this kind of investment that is its business decision. I’m sure other channels of the same ilk and similar universes may be willing to share the cost.

Many pay services don’t need BARB because they get their income from subscriptions, their viewing would go into the “other” category. If Breeze feels an electronic investment is not worthwhile, then 15- minute diary studies, organised by the industry, are an option.

However, the industry would not expect such a currency to have the same value as the electronic measurement (a fact which also has to go into Breeze’s decision-making process). As for measuring digital, if Sky will allow BARB to use its digital boxes because of digital measurement, then I’m sure other platforms will see the benefits.

But this is only one method. Broadcasters transmitting signals (which a meter can read) and picture-matching are alternatives. It is therefore highly possible that in the future the industry will use a hybrid of methods.

Hugh Johnson

Head of Research

Channel London SW1

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