UK-based digital TV satellite broadcaster, NewsCorp's BSkyB, with 7.2 million subscribers Europe's largest pay-TV operator, has appointed market research group TNS to carry out a massive new audience research project.

Sky's twenty-thousand-strong viewer panel will be four times that of Britain's official TV audience measurement organisation BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board) -- a typically aggressive Murdochian challenge to the data currently distributed by that body.

BSkyB, whose helm was recently annexed by Murdoch minor (James), boasts that its study will be not only the UK's largest TV measurement system, but also the first to link data on people's viewing preferences to their spending habits. It hails the venture as one about to "deliver new insights into the benefits of advertising to digital satellite viewers”.

BARB, of which BSkyB is currently a member, publicly welcomed the new initiative, although those nearby claimed to hear the sound of grinding teeth.

Said one senior research executive who preferred not to named for reasons of career preservation: "Sky has behaved impeccably so far and hopefully this will be a great leap forward. But it would create problems if Sky wanted to begin using it as a currency … I wouldn’t put anything past Rupert Murdoch."

Lynne Robinson, research director at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, a BARB shareholder, called Sky's project a very significant development in the world of research. “We’re watching this with a great deal of interest,” she said, adding a rider that will engross students of inflexion: “TNS is a very well respected company.”

Data sourced from: Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff