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Media Future of TV BARB

Now Barb can measure audiences anywhere, it’s debating what counts as TV


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

February 21, 2023 | 7 min read

TV audience measurement service Barb is defining what video it should pay attention to now it has expanded its gaze beyond broadcasters. A new report explains.

Barb TV

Glass Onion was the top viewed streaming show of 2022

Now it can measure video audience sizes way beyond the tried and tested world of TV, Barb has been walking a tightrope to understand what content on the likes of Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, is comparable with more traditional TV output.

The organization shared its findings of a consultation led by an independent adviser, Paul Evans of SixtyForty% who conducted nearly 40 interviews across buy-side and sell-side practitioners to work out counts as ‘TV’.

Following initial discussions, the Barb What People Watch report revealed that there “wasn’t an appetite” for “TV-like content” as a phrase. Respondents did appreciate the “value and values attributed to the [TV’s] investment made in production – and not just investment as measured by the production budget.”

To stand aside from TV, content in SVOD and video-sharing sites must have real editorial input, brand safety considerations, a level of quality and a willingness to engage with the regulations that apply to UK TV on some level.

There was a “consensus” that the distribution platform – the device the content is consumed on – and the business model of the supplier shouldn’t impact the definition of TV across all of these platforms.

The solution

Fit-for-TV was the umbrella expression chosen to encapsulate the content that will be measured by Barb.

Analysts still won’t quite be comparing apples with apples, but it will be closer than ever before. The report explained how marketers can apply context to their comparisons and understand the value of the attention they have paid for.

  • Details about the channel/platform

  • Screen/device being used

  • Orientation of the screen

  • Sound on or off

  • How much content is in view

  • How long is the content watched for

  • And where does the viewing take place

In the debate about what is and isn’t TV, Barb elected to come at the problem as the audience would. People “don’t respect boundaries between different types of services. Viewing behavior isn’t constrained by devices or distribution platforms, nor by the business models of established TV companies, pure-play VOD streamers and video-sharing platforms”.

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It comes as Barb rebrands to Barb Audiences to reflect its wider remit. For much of its 40 years, it has operated in linear TV but has stepped into the world of video-on-demand and digital video.

Speaking to The Drum, Justin Sampson, chief executive of Barb Audiences, said: "Our rebrand reflects a current reality, as well as setting the scene for future developments. The reality is we've extended our reporting to include audience data for SVOD and video-sharing services. And for future development, the industry-wide consultation — which was designed to help us maintain our heritage of continuous innovation — has articulated a point of view on the type of content we should be reporting on video-sharing services."

"At a minimum, the content needs to provide brand-safe environments for advertisers, while fit-for-TV content will transparently provide a higher benchmark of content quality."

The report also summed up UK 'fit-for-TV' consumption in 2022. According to Barb data, Brits spent 160 daily minutes with UK broadcasters from BBC to Sky, to ITV and more. This accounted for the bulk of TV viewing.

SVOD and AVOD (across 16 services including Netflix and Prime Video) took 36 minutes. A final category, ‘video sharing’ features, YouTube, Twitch and TikTok and took 43 minutes daily. All in all, it showed a fragmented set of viewing habits, but four-fifths of viewing still occurred on TV, according to its research.

The addition of Disney and Netflix to measurement in 2022 helped advertisers understand the SVOD’s scale in the market, and compare audience sizes now both brands boast ad products of some description.

Netflix still dominates SVOD, with its Glass Onion attracting an ‘aggregated average audience’ of 6.74m despite coming out 23 December. In second, third and fourth, attracting more than 4m viewers were the finale of Stranger Things season four, Harry and Meghan episode one and the debut of Afterlife. Disney+’s highest entry was 3.61m with Turning Red in seventh place. Netflix has had years of a headstart to build on. Amazon sneaks in at 10th with the debut episode of Rings of Power at 3.23m. Netflix makes up 15 of the top 20.

Barb makes the point that none of these SVOD titles found their way into the top 20 most-watched shows of the year when accounting for the full ecosystem.

Media Future of TV BARB

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