Volume of Coverage

Group of runners taking part in a mass participation event

Why Measure Volume of Coverage?

This section explains traditional forms of the media, notably television and the press.  Globally, more than 85 countries have official audience measurement systems. These service the local TV and advertising industries in each country. Many rights holders incorporate a requirement into their TV contracts that expect rights holding broadcasters to deliver confirmation of broadcast and if applicable or available, TV audience data.  Such data might be:

  • Cumulative audience, which combines individual programme audiences together. It does not differentiate unique viewers. For example, if there were four broadcasts with viewing figures of (say) 2m, 1.5m, 1m and 2.5m, then the cumulative audience would be 7m.  This does not necessarily mean that 7m different people watched an event-related broadcast.
  • Peak audience during a particular programme.  If there are different programmes covering an event the peak audiences across each programme can be used to infer an 'at least' position for the unique number of viewers in the absence of more detailed information from the broadcaster.  For example, if there were four broadcasts with peak viewing of 2m, 1.5m, 1m and 2.5m then a reasonable assumption in the absence of more detailed data would be that at least 2.5m different people watched the event programming. This is a better measure than cumulative audience.
  • Unique audience (or actual reach) measures the number of different individuals watching live or delayed broadcast coverage.  Reach de-duplicates the audience and counts each person as viewing a series of event programmes only once, as opposed to adding together the audience across many programmes or alternatively taking an average audience.  For a multi-day sports event, reach will capture any viewer that watches any event broadcast, but only measure them once (i.e. unique viewers).  Hence, if John watched two broadcasts of an event and Jim three broadcasts they would be counted once each, making the reach two.

The volume of coverage provides a measure of an event's popularity and is particularly important to local organising committees and stakeholders with an interest in promoting a host area, nationally or internationally. While AVE measures of what on-screen exposure would have cost to purchase commercially are often comissioned by events with larger budgets, those with smaller budgets may be more pragmatic and report the number of unique viewers or 'reach' as an indication of the popularity of their event.

Download - Volume of Coverage Toolkit (.pdf) 

Print media

Media monitoring companies run clipping services to assess the extent of any coverage of a given event.  These media evaluation companies can also derive figures linked to the Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) of such coverage.

Further information can be found on AVE here

Social media reach

Social media 'reach' is consistent with reach in a television context and measures the range of influence of event related content i.e. the number of unique users that viewed event related social media activity.  It can be measured relatively easily according to the number of likes, followers and connections that an event's social media accounts achieve.  This reach can be broken down into three categories:

  • Organic reach - the number of unique users that viewed a post on their newsfeed;
  • Viral reach - the number of unique users that viewed a post shared by a friend; and
  • Paid reach - the number of unique users that viewed a post through an advertisement.

Media analytics tools can provide the above information for event organisers and marketing departments.  Simple aggregation across the main social media platforms will provide an indication of an event's online community or organic reach, for example:

Total Facebook fans + Twitter followers + Pinterest followers + LinkedIn followers + Instagram followers + Google+ followers

It is possible to keep track of these statistics manually, using the built in analytics provided by each social network.  Alternatively, web analytics packages can be used or media evaluation consultants can design bespoke solutions for larger events.

The most common metric applied to reach data is Audience Growth Rate which measures the change in an event's following across various social media networks during two points in time, i.e. pre and post event, to identify additions to the audience during the event which may reflect the strength of any social media campaigns that were run.  A hypothetical example of how Audience Growth might look based on reach data pre, during and immediately post event is presented below with YouTube exhibiting the largest growth rate across the various platforms. 


Example of Social Media Reach Metric (Audience Growth Rate)


2 weeks


1 week


Event week

1 week


Change (%)
































Facebook (and Twitter) analytics provide measures and reports on reach if an event chooses to use paid advertisements on these social media platforms.  However, measuring viral reach requires more in-depth analysis by media analytics companies which may incur additional costs, which will vary depending on the level of insight required.   

Unique TV viewers

The best and most cost effective way for organisers to derive audience data is through rights holder agreements signed with host broadcasters.  Most broadcasters will provide basic programme data showing the audience in thousands and other metrics by programme, as well as other details such as time, date, channel of broadcast, duration and details of the content. 'Reach' measurement, however, requires more costly specialised measurement.  It is worth noting that in some countries (local restrictions mean) broadcasters might not have the right to share the TV data and consequently this might need to be sourced directly from media evaluation / research companies who may well charge for their services.  In the UK, data is provided by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) for which a licence fee can be paid.

Actual reach is the net number of people who have viewed a particular piece of broadcast output, e.g. a programme, day part (e.g. breakfast period 0600-0924), channel or advertising campaign.  It can be further defined based on a minimum duration of engagement which offers enhanced detail about those watching a particular broadcast or series of programmes.   For example official data from RideLondon in 2015 revealed that:

  • More than 9m people watched the event on television for at least one minute;
  • 6.5m watched for at least three consecutive minutes; and
  • 3.2m people watched the event on television for at least 20 minutes.

BARB reports individual channel reach based on a three minute minimum duration which is generally recognised as valid for estimating those more actively engaged, however there is no prescribed approach and one minute engagement will provide a realistic potential audience.  The longer the reported duration of engagement, the more dedicated the viewer and the more likely they are to receive any intended place/product marketing messages (3.2m at RideLondon).  

Actual reach can also be expressed as a percentage of a total population. In the examples from Spanish TV1 (below), 20 minute reach metrics (expressed as a percentage of the Spanish population watching) facilitate meaningful comparisons across events (and sports) by removing complications associated with the duration and volume of programming which can influence other audience measures.  It is relatively easy to understand that more than 81% of the Spanish population watched at least 20 minutes of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Reach on Spanish TV - 20 consecutive minutes (data from Kantar Media, Spain)

At both UK and international levels, TV news may also be included in the programming to generate reach using data from a news monitoring service, though this may not necessarily be cost effective.  In addition, unless there are specific reasons for including it linked to specific place marketing objectives, news coverage is excluded on the basis that it represents non-core programming without an intended target market.  The process of buying and collating global (international) reach data is expensive and realistically will only apply to major or mega events.  However, if it is necessary, the most cost effective approach is to target markets that cover the highest percentage of the global population, whilst also recognising overseas broadcasters may be covered by local market audience measurement systems, which may result in gaps in the information available. 

A simple checklist to follow when considering TV monitoring is presented below.

  • Is my event broadcast on domestic and international channels that have audience data?
  • Can I partner with other stakeholders to share research costs (e.g. sponsors / other parties)?
  • Do I have the ability within broadcast contracts to ask for “proof of performance”, to provide audience data to deliver some useful metrics?
  • If the content is being broadcast online, can metrics be made available to (as closely as possible) mirror TV audience data?
  • Domestic analysis and sourcing of reach data for the UK requires a small budget to cover BARB licenses and also some data analysis/sourcing time.
  • International analysis can be costly and should be focused on specific markets either based on market size (to try and cover a good percentage of the global population) or markets that are relevant to the sport / event or the stakeholders involved in the event.
  • Ultimately, aims and objectives that organisers have for their events will determine the strength of any data they are able to source, i.e. are the data available sufficient to meet the stated objectives in terms of an event's reach.

 References and additional resources

 1 Audience data from Spain was used to avoid the need for a publishing licence to use TV viewing data.

 The BARB website is a useful resource for clarification of some of the terminology presented in this section, see http://www.barb.co.uk/resources/barb-facts/glossary?_s=4.

Website audience

Another measure associated with the volume of coverage relates to the number of people accessing an event website.  Tools such as Google Analytics can be used to measure the following:

  • Unique visitors which is a fundamental absolute measure of your audience size in a given period and is traditionally used to gauge the overall level of traffic to a website;
  • Changes in audience size over time from for example a baseline pre-event to peaks during an event, or to visitors post event can provide valuable insight.  Moreover, analytics tools often allow real time reporting of website usage which is a valuable tool in measuring whether a new piece of online content is having any impact; and
  • Unique visits combined with sessions will help you to measure how many people return to your site more than once which indicates they may be particularly interested in the event  which in turn organisers may be able to exploit in the future.

While unique visitor data provides volume of traffic, it does not show how much people like the website.  In order to evaluate this, richer data linked to page views and time on the site will also be required.  Various web analytics tools available can also be used to assess the number of unique views of specific online content of interest to an event and its stakeholders. 

Apart from metrics linked to the event website, web analytics can also be used to measure traffic to other sites linked to specific events and media analysis consultants offer a variety of services for a commercial fee.  The key point here is that the more in depth analysis is likely to have budget implications whereas the unique visitor metrics can be sourced via Google Analytics (for example) and other similar tools.

For more detail on the power of Google Analytics perhaps have a look at the following link


Digital Audience and Streaming

Some broadcasters and event organisers stream event coverage online. Online coverage can either be dedicated event coverage, or other social media or videoplatforms such as YouTube. This section refers to dedicated event coverage that is similar to the content available on television.

At present there is not the same level of measurement development from the industry as a whole, although there are attempts being made in many countries to measure the total audience across TV and online platforms. Currently the combined measurement techniques are not widely available and there is (as yet) no consistent approach from market to market. However, as the systems being developed involve a digital process, they are likely to be able to generate data that appears in a similar fashion to TV audience metrics. In some cases this can be split between live streaming and video on demand. In other cases it will relate to a single broadcast and include all types of access. Data is dependent on what is available from the data analytics that broadcaster sites have in place and could include:

  • Average audience (as per TV) - a programme audience is the average of all the minute audiences covered by the programme transmission.
  • Number of accesses - the total number of people that have accessed any part of the content – content being a broadcast or set of broadcasts.
  • Unique views or visitors - refers to the number of different people who access the video content. This is closest to TV reach as it counts people once regardless of number of visits according to (for example): IP address; cookies; or their member name (if the particular site uses membership).
  • Peak concurrent views - the highest number of viewers at any one time during the broadcast.

Whilst standardised cross media measurement doesn’t yet exist, unique views across the total event programming would provide a metric that is closest to TV reach. In the UK, BARB is testing new techniques amongst its TV Panel which combine traditional television monitoring with digital streaming and consumption of programming on mobile devices and on-demand in order to arrive at a consolidated measure of the viewing audience1.


1 http://www.barb.co.uk/resources/barb-facts/how-we-do-what-we-do