NEWS20 December 2001

BARB panel deadline slips

TV measurement body BARB has told users it will still launch its new service at the beginning of the year even though it does not expect to supply viewing data from everyone on its panel until February.

Advanced Television Research, which displaced Taylor Nelson Sofres in a pitch to run BARB’s new panel, is committed to delivering a minimum of 4,500 reporting homes by 1 January, BARB’s director of research, Tony Wearn, told users at a special briefing at the end of last year.

“We’re still working towards producing the maximum number of homes possible and we’re working on providing reliable, tested viewing data that maintains and enhances the integrity of the current service,” Wearn said.

Panel data will be carefully vetted and will be withheld if there are thought to be inaccuracies, he added. At the time of going to press BARB was about to release a comparative analysis evaluating the differences between the old and new currencies.

BARB chief executive Caroline McDevitt told users that delays were due to inevitable teething problems. “We are sensibly taking the long view, rather than focusing on just the first three or six weeks of the birth of the service, so that it will endure for at least the next five to eight years.”

On the whole, users were relatively relaxed about the delay although some expressed disappointment. “The general feeling is that once the new system is in place it will be worth the wait,” said Hugh Johnson, head of commercial marketing and research at Channel 4. “Establishing an industry currency like BARB is like building a dam – it’s a major project. Delays are expected.”

Research director at Flextech, Andrew McIntosh, said he felt cable companies had been unjustly blamed for the delay because it took longer to set up systems to measure digital viewing on cable than it did on other platforms. Cable firms did not have as much money as Sky to alter their systems, which were in place before BARB introduced its new techniques, McIntosh said.

Advanced Television Research has recruited a completely new panel to accommodate technological changes and public consumption habits.

BARB says the new panel will provide statistically better data than its predecessor as multi-channel homes and regional panels are adequately represented.