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.