BARB Set To Measure SVoD Audiences In UK

UK audience measurement agency BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) is about to launch regular data on SVoD (Subscription VoD) viewing, as well as video-sharing platforms.

This brings the UK into line with some other countries, notably the USA where audience analytics group Nielsen already publishes ratings of streaming video and SVoD consumption broken down by platform and individual program or episode.

BARB plans to introduce this enhancement to its range of audience and content measurement services later in 2021 when it will start reporting aggregate-level viewing for the leading streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. This announcement was bundled in a press release detailing BARB’s appointment of London-based analytics group Kantar to deploy new meters in the form of tablet devices into its representative panel of UK homes, which at the same time will increase from 5,150 homes to 7,000 homes.

The objective of the tablet is as much to motivate panel members to participate in ongoing research as to generate additional data, according to BARB. The devices will be installed alongside existing meters attached to WiFi routers in the homes of panel members to identify how people watch streaming services.

This comes as BARB, in common with audience measurement agencies elsewhere, incorporates on-demand and streaming viewing into its services. This includes viewing both before and after scheduled broadcast time, broken down by devices such as tablets, PCs and smartphones.

BARB has also awarded some long-term research contracts aimed at exploiting what it calls “big data”, by which it means information about content consumption from other sources than its traditional panels. BARB rightly considers this fundamental to future analysis of viewing and also for preserving its own relevance in an increasingly online world of video viewing dominated by streaming.

Big data in the TV context can be defined as the digital trail viewers leave as they surf between channels and video sources, which helps identify what audiences like and dislike on a more granular basis. In the immediate term it helps broadcasters target their content more accurately, and brands or agencies their adverts. Increasingly, it also feeds into the content generation process itself as the likes of Netflix determine what programs to make on the basis of audience feedback to previous series.

BARB then has appointed the UK’s Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) to assess implementation of the tagging software that generates its own big data set. It is also using a content identification system from MetaBroadcast tracking programs automatically on the basis of their metadata.

BARB has also contracted RSMB, another London-based developer of audience measurement technology, to provide analytic tools incorporating machine learning algorithms to adapt to changing viewer patterns. This, according to BARB, will improve its ongoing audit of panel-management processes and monitoring of viewing levels reported from various sources.

As Justin Sampson, Chief Executive of BARB, explained, “These decisions underscore the long-term commitment of the UK television and advertising industry to independent, objective and transparent audience measurement. Staying true to the objective of the tender process, BARB has chosen imaginative and engaging solutions that have the versatility to track the full range of linear and on-demand services viewers can choose from.”

Kevin Rini is SVP Product Management at US media analytics group Nielsen.

Kevin Rini is SVP Product Management at US media analytics group Nielsen.

In fact, BARB is to an extent emulating what Nielsen has been doing in the USA. The group in April 2021 launched its Nielsen Streaming Video Ratings, a syndicated service exploiting its existing premier audience insights platform, NPOWER, that provides data on total viewership and advanced audience demographic insights by streaming platform, alongside linear TV ratings. This in turn complements the Nielsen Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) Content Ratings, which gives a granular view of program and episode level measurement.

Taken together, Nielsen now claims these services offer a comprehensive view of the streaming landscape for advertisers, networks, studios, digital publishers and financial investors. Nielsen Streaming Video Ratings provides a total view of streaming activity across major subscription and ad-supported streaming services, while Nielsen SVOD Content Ratings delivers that more granular view.

The overall objective is to give a holistic view of total TV time for each consumer, allowing media buyers to make more informed decisions about their advertising investments. At the same time, media sellers can assess competition and understand audience composition to generate additional revenues from their premium content.

The new Nielsen Streaming Video Ratings has already yielded some data, such as the finding Netflix now accounts for about 7% of total TV time in the USA. One third of homes capable of streaming access between three and four SVoD services per month, but nearly half of homes also use an ad-supported VOD (AVoD) service as well. This highlights the growing penetration of AVoD services in the USA, as major media players such as Comcast, Fox and ViacomCBS target this sector with comprehensive packages.

Beyond SVoD and AVoD, linear streaming, such as vMPVD (virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors) apps, has also emerged as a popular and viable consumer content option, according to Nielsen’s SVR service. “By 2024, it’s estimated that streaming platforms will have amassed 210 million subscribers, which represents a staggering number of consumers and a major shift in media habits,” said Kevin Rini, SVP Product Management, Nielsen. “Now more than ever, it’s important for our clients to have a clear understanding of the streaming landscape, both from a program or content perspective, which our SVoD service does, as well as at a macro view of audience consumption that takes into account the total use of streaming platforms comparable to linear TV.”

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