Friday, August 10, 2007

Who makes this stuff up?

I was intrigued by the Broadcast headline that ITV banker THE BILL topped the ratings with 4.4 million this week. Having written for the show, that sounded low to me, and therefore perhaps a bit less of a banker than might have been thought.

I trotted off to BARB and looked at the equivalent week for 2006. Mmmmmm....... 5.76 million. Wow that's a pretty significant drop for a ''banker''. Well......... maybe 2006 was a good year. I'll go back to the same week in 2005. Mmmmmmm 5.76 million. Nope begining to look like 2007 is a bad year. Just to check I'll go back to the same week in 2004. Mmmmmm 5.76 million, so that means..........wait a minute WTF???????? The show had exactly the same amout of viewers in the same week three years running? Wow that is consistant! So either something is badly wrong at THE BILL and they have managed to lose 23% of their viewers in a year or someone has got their figures wrong.

Not having watched The Bill in some time I can't comment on the show. But it did make me delve into how these figures are produced. It just seemed to me that 5.76 million in the same week three years running was a bit too coincidental. Granted, The Bill has a core audience, but you'd expect some difference surely?

Anyhoo, I knew it was done by a sample audience with electronic gizmos wired to their TV and DVD players, but I thought I'd go to the BARB site and see just how they chose the panel and how many households were involved.

Panic over. According to the website we have no need to fear that the panel are anything other than a neat cross section of the population because .........

'' Panel homes are selected via a 'multi-stage, stratified and unclustered' sample design. What this means is that the panel is fully representative of all television households across the whole of the UK.''

Good to know there's someone else out there watching Porn Week on Bravo.

I tried to find out from the site just how many households were on the panel but the closest I could get was that 52000 interviews are held to determine who should be on it. How many of those interviewees made it to the panel I couldn't say. For all I know there might only be a couple of dozen households purporting to be the zeitgeist, perhaps someone could enlighten me.

But something very interesting showed up.

''Key features of the current service are a larger reporting sample and improved panel design. Among the main developments are:
Removal of demographic disproportionality. The under sampling of downmarket audiences has ended and the design of the panel is now proportionate to the population. ''

Ah well that goes a long way to explaining the current crop of crap. What this industry definitely needs is a more downmarket audience.

I honestly can't believe that anyone would announce that there is such a thing as a downmarket audience, what a fricking cheek! I hope all you downmarket pannelists start watching Panorama just to spite them!


Piers said...

I don't know what the figure is now, but in the late 90s the panel was about 4,000 households, selected to demographically match the population of the UK.

A fella I used to work with assured me that statistically this was good enough to measure audiences to about the nearest 100,000 (though it fell apart at the really low figures).

English Dave said...

Thanks Piers. I know naff all about statistics, except they are generally right. I wonder if in the digital age there can be a more realistic measure of viewing figures, though I suppose privacy issues could arise. Does anyone know if Sky channels are able to tell the nubver if viewers on a particular channel?