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BARB Rolls Out Meters to Improve SVOD Viewing Measurement
New routers will measure panel members' viewing on smartphones for the first time

UK ratings agency BARB is looking to close a loophole in its cross-platform measurements by introducing meters into homes of its panel members.

The BARB reporting panel is made up of 5,300 homes (including 200 broadband-only homes) that are representative of household type, demographics, TV platform and geography. There are more than 12,000 people living in these homes.

However, tracking streaming activity of VOD services and across devices such as smartphones has been a bugbear that BARB has sought to close.

The router or Focal Meters, which BARB has commissioned for install from Kantar, will be attached to the broadband routers in panel homes and are designed to track streaming activity by any member of the household on any device, with their consent.

Among other things, the meter is intended to provide greater insight into unidentified viewing, which is TV set viewing that BARB cannot identify and which accounted for 19% of total TV set use in 2018.

A significant portion of unidentified viewing is believed to comprise of viewing to SVOD and online video services. Subject to further evaluation, router meters are anticipated to facilitate the reporting of aggregate-level viewing of these services but will still not cover viewing of SVOD services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which have not signed to BARB.

The meters will also distinguish whether post-broadcast viewing was done through a tagged broadcast VOD (BVOD) service or via playback of a PVR recording. Currently, BARB can only make this distinction in panel homes with Sky; router meters will extend this capability to all panel homes.

At present, BARB has device-based census data for smartphone viewing. Router meters will also enable the demographic profiles of smartphone viewing to be reported.

However, the devices will only track video streaming activity from a designated list of BVOD, SVOD and online video services; other types of internet activity will not be tracked.  

Kantar will begin to install its router meters into new and existing BARB panel homes in October.

"Whether it is live streaming or watching on-demand, people around the UK are getting used to watching content that's been distributed through BVOD services and other online platforms," says Justin Sampson, BARB’s chief executive. "This is why a meter attached to the broadband router in panel homes is a vital capability for BARB to have."

BARB is also running a tender process for agencies to record audience data from the time the contract with Kantar ends in 2022. It is expected that router meters will form part of the winning solution.

A notable recent example of measurement of non-TV set audiences reveals that 4.6 million people watched the June 3 episode of ITV2 reality show Love Island on a TV, and a further 1.3m watched on a tablet, PC or smartphone.

Generally, BARB finds that viewing on non-TV devices adds around 1.3% to TV set viewing, but this does vary by genre and programme—and Love Island is the show with the highest levels of non-TV viewing, with an uplift of 29%.