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Sky boss calls for adoption of transparent viewing figures

Senior Sky executive Zai Bennett has challenged other broadcasters to become more transparent about how many viewers watch programmes on-demand.

Amidst concerns among some in the industry on the way on-demand/catch-up TV audiences are being measured - with some players such as Netflix reluctant to produce any figures - the Director of Sky Atlantic announced this week that Sky would from now on be focusing on seven-day cumulative audience figures, which will include all repeat showings on linear TV, plus the number of viewers watching on-demand via Sky and Now TV.

In a blog post, Zai Bennett revealed that up to 60% of audiences are ignored by the traditional BARB-based methods of counting viewers, with viewers watching a series on catch-up over seven days as well as those watching a repeat on a linear channel not being captured.

Revealing more about Sky's new preference for counting viewers, he said:
"Our new focus will be a seven day cumulative audience. This is available from BARB around two weeks after an episode first airs and captures viewing to all linear broadcasts, including repeats, as well as most catch up and on demand viewing through a TV set, including those watching with NOW TV.  
Now that we’re two weeks in, we know that the first episode of our brand new Sky Original Production Tin Star has been watched by more than 1.6 million people. And 323,000 views have been made of the episode through the Sky Go app and NOW TV. When you compare this to the episode’s overnight audience of 342K, it’s a big difference.

For shows like Tin Star which we release as a boxset, we’ll also report on its ‘total programme consumption’ once the series concludes, which will give a more complete viewing picture of the series. We’ll calculate this using BARB’s cumulative audience figures, alongside our own internal data that BARB isn’t able to capture, such as any on demand viewing of a show before it’s had a linear transmission."

Challenging others to follow Sky's method, he added:
 "I’d encourage other broadcasters to also use a more transparent viewing picture, so we all have a more accurate sense of the shows that have really captured the public’s imagination. "

Traditionally, audience research organisation BARB uses a representative sample of households to ascertain how many viewers have watched a programme. As traditional households fragment and more users catching-up with TV programmes after they have been broadcast on traditional TV, the capturing of audience figures has become more difficult. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video's audience figures are usually never revealed to third parties.