BARB to offer in-depth digital data

The measurement of digital TV viewing is about to take a major step forward with the launch of new, more detailed data later this month.

The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) is to release the first set of improved data for the week ending November 7, which will be available to the media industry from November 16.

Digital TV measurement until now has only covered viewing of “simulcast” channels (those broadcasting simultaneously the same analogue and digital output) in SkyDigital homes. From November 16, measurement will cover audiences to all digital channels on the SkyDigital platform, using specially-made probes in the Sky set-top boxes.

Initial reporting in November will be based on about 140 homes out of the existing BARB panel of 4,500 homes. This sample will grow as digital take-up occurs naturally amongst the panel.

Probes for ONdigital set-top boxes are being built for use in about six months’ time, and negotiations with cable TV operators to develop the technology are in progress.

Caroline McDevitt, BARB chief executive says: “The UK has the most robust audience measurement system in the world.” But she says BARB recommends caution when interpreting viewer estimates for digital households, because it is in its early stages of development and is drawn from a very small sample.

The deadline for bids for the BARB TV measurement contract, currently held by Taylor Nelson Sofres and RSMB, which expires in December 2001, was on Monday. A decision is expected by April 2000.

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