The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) has been forced to extend the tender deadline for its £10m TV audience measure contract over fears that the negotiations would run out of time.
The contract should have been signed today (Wednesday) but has been put back to January 10 as the tenders from research companies were due to lapse. BARB has confirmed the extension in its first public admission that the contract negotiations are in difficulty.
A BARB spokeswoman refused to comment on reports that the delay is due to threatened legal action from Nielsen against rival TNS (MW last week). She says the extension is “precautionary” and that a signed contract is “expected” sooner.
The move creates further uncertainty over the appointment of TNS/Arbitron in place of incumbent AGBNielsen. BARB was understood to be on the cusp of formally awarding the contract to TNS/Arbitron (MW November 15) but a potential legal action by Nielsen, a 50% stakeholder in AGBNielsen with WPP Group, is thought to have slowed the process.
Nielsen holds a European patent for an audience measurement system that collects codes assigned to broadcast waves, which it claims is the same technology that TNS will use.
The BARB spokeswoman insists that no decision has been made over the contract and refuses to confirm if the body had sought legal advice other than what was normal for the signing of any commercial deal. The tender was announced in December last year, with the new contract due to start in 2010. AGBNielsen and TNS declined to comment.