What's now and next for BARB and walled gardens
We could go further and offer the industry more with an industry-wide consultation and the involvement of walled garden streamers alongside Origin, argues Justin Sampson, BARB CEO.
Industry commentary in response to ISBA’s recent announcement about the proposed Origin levy refers to aspects of BARB’s funding and governance.
Some of this commentary merits clarification as it suggests a narrow transactional perspective from the buy-side of the industry.
Yet this overlooks the fundamental role the IPA and its member agencies play in the multi-stakeholder governance of BARB.
Just last year, the IPA made a far-reaching agreement with the broadcasters — including the BBC — to extend industry support of BARB until the end of 2029. And these stakeholders aren’t simply paying subscribers.
They work together to design a system that works for all parties.
This underpins BARB’s status as a joint-industry currency, or JIC. And this joint-industry governance guides us as we continuously evolve our gold-standard measure of what people watch.
Innovation has carried us a long way
Our daily audience figures now include insight into how people watch SVOD services and video-sharing platforms.
We are the first joint-industry currency in the world to have done this, and reached this milestone without the active participation of the walled-garden streamers.
We could go further — and offer the industry more — with their involvement.
As we innovate and evolve, BARB reviews our measurement rules to ensure these meet the industry’s needs, but we never forget our joint-industry principles.
Marc Pritchard of P&G made a seminal speech in 2017 that catapulted audience measurement to the top of the industry’s agenda.
He might not have called out BARB and the concept of JICs. Yet he focused on principles that mirror our approach to delivering a trusted measurement of what people watch across all platforms.
He talked about the importance of responsible editorial control over the quality of content.
He talked about investing in places where brands are proven safe; where the content is known.
And he called for a set of rules that include common standards and practices for third-party, cross-platform audience measurement.
BARB’s role is to support the whole industry
BARB is not here to support the point of view of one or other of our stakeholders.
Our responsibility is to deliver audience research based on joint-industry principles that align with those set out by the WFA.
These include the fundamental point that audience reporting should be based on consistent audience building blocks. Or to use the vernacular, apples-with-apples measurement.
Marc Pritchard’s articulation of what this means is a view we hear often in our consultations with advertisers and agencies about how we develop our services.
All of this sets the scene for our current industry consultation on how we extend our measurement to embrace television-like content on video-sharing platforms.
An industry-wide consultation based on three principles
By way of a starting point, we believe the definition should be underpinned by three principles. Each of these reflects points made by Marc Pritchard.
Firstly, the videos/channels should be under the editorial control of a professional media services provider.
Secondly, they should operate to industry-agreed standards for brand safety.
And they can be classified into genres to help advertisers and agencies know the editorial environment their ads are appearing in.
How does this fit with Origin?
Our consultation may prompt questions about how BARB’s plans fits with those of Project Origin.
Put simply, we’re not here to compete with Origin’s aim to deliver measurement of audience consumption across all media channels.
Equally, BARB — on behalf of the industry — has a tremendous asset that delivers definitive, trusted and independent measurement of what people watch on a wide range of platforms and devices.
This comprises a carefully-recruited, representative panel of UK homes, which is critical to making sense of the census data we collect from participating streaming services.
And the commitment made last year by the IPA and all broadcasters to support BARB until the end of the decade enhances this asset.
We’re committed to extending our panel to 7,000 homes, which is nearly 16,000 people.
We agree with Origin’s view that BARB should be an important component of any cross-media measurement system.
Yet it’s still too early in the development of Origin for us to conclude whether BARB data would be used alongside objectively-equivalent sources.
Given the important principle of consistent audience-building blocks, we look forward to working with Origin on this assessment.
As for our consultation on the definition of television-like content, we expect the results will be ready for review by BARB’s Strategy Board in the autumn.
Our aim is to specify the next evolution in BARB’s delivery of the industry’s gold-standard measurement of what people watch.
We look forward to sharing more news in due course.
Justin Sampson is chief executive of BARB.