“How do they calculate viewing figures?”

… was the question on my mind a couple of weeks ago, over Christmas. I was talking to Philippa and her parents, and we were wondering how TV stations managed to calculate their viewing figures – whether it was done automatically, or whether they had some form of survey, or something like that.

Well, I just decided to Google it, and came up with this article from the Guardian. Apparently, viewing figures are calculated by giving a number of people a special piece of equipment which allows them to specify when they’re watching TV and what they are watching. This information is then collected by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board Ltd (BARB).

You can find out more info on the BARB Website, if you so wish!


5 responses to ““How do they calculate viewing figures?””

  1. Hmmmmmm … This sounds highly suspicious. I mean, statistically whenever you take just a sample of people the chances are that the results are pretty skewed … and especially with something as subjective as TV watching – How do they compensate for the irregular viewing habits of someone who might just sit down and watch anything that’s on … there’s no accounting for what an individual will choose to watch on any given night! And given the amount of importance that is placed on ratings for the continuation of a show …

  2. I think it’s a bit dubious if they say that (for example) 16 million people watched a show based on a sample size of about 5,000.

    I’ve just calculated that’s 0.00031%… probably not really good enough to give a particularly good representative sample! Ah well… you know what they say about lies, damn lies and internet blogs. Uh, I mean, statistics…

  3. They also use spikes in electricity demand to gain a rough idea of how many people are watching TV at any given time.

  4. But that still presumes the number of people who will make a cup of tea/coffee during ad breaks … and plus an electricity spike is only going to give you a vague idea of what people are watching … Death to Eastenders! Crush Corrie! End Emmerdale! Hack off Hollyoaks! And reject reality shows!

  5. I don’t know – but my friend who is a statician working with the National Grid predicting electricity demand seems to know what I’m watching on TV at any given time!

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