UK Ratings Havoc as New BARB System Hits Problems

04 January 2002

British broadcasters and advertisers eager to discover television ratings for the first fortnight of 2002 have been left guessing after the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board was forced to suspend release of its figures.

For the first time in a decade, BARB has changed its measurement system. However, early problems with the new scheme – introduced on January 1 – meant that figures for New Year’s Day were not released on Wednesday as normal, nor Wednesday’s ratings on Thursday.

In fact, BARB has announced it will be January 15 at the earliest before it can make public any figures, as it has not had enough time to check the data sufficiently.

Such teething troubles have caused chaos for ad sales houses and schedulers, not least at terrestrial station Channel 4, which is unable to find out ratings for Shackleton, the costliest drama it has ever commissioned.

The major difference in the new measurement system is the change of panel to 5,300 new households, some 600 more than before, designed to better reflect Britain’s demographics. However, the full panel – the first time in over 30 years it has been replaced wholesale – will not be operational until March, a month later than initially forecast.

Despite the chaos, commercial network ITV offered its support: “The broadcasters, who are all shareholders in BARB, have taken the view that it’s more important that the facts and figures are accurate. Commercial broadcasters have to trade on those figures, so it’s important they’re correct.”

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