Crisis deepens as BARB panel delayed again

The controversy surrounding the new BARB TV audience research contract has deepened after it has emerged that the date by which the new panel will be made up to its full strength of more than 5,200 viewers will be postponed for the third time.

Now media buyers expect the panel will only be fully operational in May, two months later than BARB’s former estimate of March.

According to industry sources, BARB issued a statement at the end of last week saying that a full panel will be in operation in the second quarter of this year.

Carat broadcast planning director David Peters says: “I think May is a conservative estimate for when BARB will have the full panel. Going by its track record so far, it is more likely to be June 30.”

He adds: “It’s critical that BARB resolves the under-strength panel as quickly as possible. We don’t want the currency that’s used to buy and sell TV to be undermined.”

The full panel should have gone live before the start of the new BARB contract on January 1, so that results could be compared with those from the old panel, run by Taylor Nelson Sofres.

But in November, BARB revealed the full panel – managed under the new contract by ATR – would not be ready until February.

When the panel started operating at the beginning of the year it numbered only 4,000 viewers, and BARB revised its estimate, saying that the full panel would not be ready until March.

The latest consolidated data from BARB, which covers the first 17 days of January, shows that overall adult viewing is down eight per cent year on year. Commercial impacts – a measure of airtime during ad breaks – are down 11 per cent and viewing among 16- to 34-year-olds is down 14 per cent, according to analysis by Starcom Motive.

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