BARB plans to measure “TV-like content” on video-sharing platforms

BARB, the UK provider of broadcast-backed TV audience measurement, today announced that it has commissioned an industry consultation on extending its reporting to include “all TV and similar content on the video sharing platform”.

Since November last year, BARB has already included video-sharing platforms like YouTube and TikTok in its reports, although so far this data has only been for service level – representing total viewing, rather than viewing television content. BARB has also been measuring content on subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platforms since November, via meters installed on routers.

Justin Sampson, BARB’s Managing Director, says the effort marks “the next evolution” of BARB’s measurement standard.

“Innovation took BARB to a major milestone last year,” said Sampson. “Since November 2021, we have been providing daily audience data for SVOD and video sharing services. This enhances what was already the most comprehensive and granular measurement service for all forms of television on all devices.

What is television?

The proposed change would be important primarily to help provide a better independent measure of the total reach of television and television-like content. These platforms play a major role for broadcasters, not only for promotion, but also for airing clips or even entire episodes of their shows. Channel 4, for example, streams entire runs of many of its popular shows on YouTube.

But the move will also see BARB attempt to tackle one of the most debated issues on the speaking circuit: is TV these days anyway? With broadcasters distributing 30-second clips on social platforms, and YouTube and TikTok both investing in CTV content, those boundaries have never been so blurred.

While for some of us this is mostly a rhetorical question, for BARB it is a practical question. As the UK’s self-proclaimed gold standard for television measurement, BARB must set the boundaries for where it begins and ends its measurement.

Paul Evans, a consultant and growth advisor who previously worked as global head of media at Vodafone and head of EMEA media at Xbox, has been tapped to lead the consultancy. Evans’ experience on the buyer side will help ensure the resulting definition of TV-like content aligns with advertiser sentiment, and BARB says it will gather opinions from industry practitioners.

The measuring body also drew three initial characteristics defining TV-like content, which align with the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive, as a starting point. These are:

  • Videos and channels must be under the editorial control of a professional media service provider.
  • They must operate to industry-agreed standards for brand safety.
  • They can be categorized by genre to help advertisers and agencies understand the editorial environment in which their ads appear.

This in itself is a vague definition. Under these guidelines alone, five-second clips from a TikTok creator who is registered with a media company (which manages and verifies their content) would arguably be classified as television-like content. It’s hard to see that still being the case in the final definition, especially since BARB is a broadcaster-backed company.

But pinning down a definition is more difficult than it first appears. These first three guidelines make no mention of content length, which could be an obvious next stop – except that broadcasters could argue that their own shortened content should be classified as similar to television, especially if it is a short extract from a full television program.

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Shirley K. Rosa