BARB figures fuel TV inflation fears

Early BARB viewing figures show sharp fall, triggering fears of a price hike in television advertising

Alarm bells have started ringing among TV media buyers analysing the first viewing figures under the new BARB contract, which show that overall audiences are down by up to 12 per cent. The figures are prompting fears of future TV inflation.

Industry sources claim that unofficial overnight figures for the first three days of this year show that ITV1’s share of viewing is down 30 per cent on the same period last year.

Other unofficial overnight data figures for the first seven days show that ITV1’s share of individual viewing was in fact down by 16 per cent.

In December last year, BARB revealed that in early comparison runs of the old panel with the new, the new panel had recorded five per cent less viewing overall than the old.

Carat broadcast planning director David Peters says: “The last thing we need in a continued advertising recession is to have reported viewing levels down so much year on year.”

TV buyers are concerned that the new panel covers only 4,000 homes rather than the intended 5,300. The full panel should be running by March.

Jim Marshall, chairman of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising Media Policy Group, admits that the new system was bound to throw up some glitches, but warns it is too early to make any judgements. A spokesman for the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers agrees.

ITV marketing and commercial director Jim Hytner says: “It’s far too early to make any judgements as the new panel will need time to settle in.”

BARB, which had suspended the publication of the ratings for up to two weeks while the team checked the reliability of the data from their new panel of homes, was unavailable for comment.

Advertisers such as Toyota and Disneyland Paris’ new theme park Walt Disney Studios, which advertised heavily in the first week of January, will be on tenterhooks until the outstanding data comes in and is analysed over the next week.

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