Two sides of the coin in the TV industry

Delivering at the cutting edge of TV audience measurement

An interview with Margo Swadley

Margo Swadley on stage at The World Audiences Summit 2016

In March 2015 Margo Swadley, former Marketing & Audiences Director for Charter Renewal and Acting Director of Audiences at the BBC, joined Kantar Media. Margo is UK Managing Director for audience measurement and manages our contracts to provide measurement services to UK industry body BARB, where she served as a board member for three years. Margo works closely with BARB to implement their strategy, including the introduction of the TV Player Report and measurement of viewing on tablets and PCs.

Q. You spent seven years at the BBC, how does it compare to Kantar Media? In other words what's it like working on both sides?
A. Seeing the data from both sides is very interesting. At the BBC it was much more about pulling insights from data and putting them into action. It was great knowing things were done because of the insights. I’m enjoying being involved from the beginning of the process in my role at Kantar because the data is the foundation. So we’re constantly asking ourselves: what can we do to get the data better? How do we measure more screens and measure the long tail of viewing to deliver the most comprehensive measurement to meet BARB’s needs.

What’s interesting is that both organisations are very much in the public eye and there is no room for error. That’s incredibly motivating for someone like me!

Q. What have you been working on since you started at Kantar Media? 
A. We’ve been concentrating our thinking on how audiences are going to view TV content in the future and what that means for measurement. The immediate focus, apart from continuing to operate the core TV audience measurement service, is capturing online viewing in as much detail as possible. A huge element of this considers how we collect this data consistently, reliably and 100% accurately. The world of TV is used to that rigour because the industry demands it, the delivery of overnight ratings still remains the bedrock of trading. You’d never want to miss even two minutes of viewing data. In the online world that rigour hasn’t been there because it hasn’t been used in the same way. Working with BARB we’re addressing this and establishing the standards needed.

Q. BARB’s TV Player Report launched in September 2015 using online viewing data collected by Kantar Media. How important was that step?
A. Incredibly important. BARB’s TV Player Report is a stepping-stone and part of Project Dovetail, the hybrid measurement model being driven by BARB. The beta version provides official figures for viewing on devices such as laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones. It’s already incredibly powerful because it’s the first time you have a competitive view on a like for like basis across players. For example we now have a measure of how content aired on BBC’s iPlayer compares with ITV Hub or Sky Go. That’s an amazing development.

The broadcasters have put in a lot of hard work to implement the analytics tags into their platforms. These allow us to pick up device level data – how many devices streamed content on TV players and for how many minutes - to get total minutes data. From this we can work out the average programme streams and produce automated reports.

The service has been working solidly for the first six months so now we’re thinking about the next stage, Dovetail Two, which is about publishing people level data rather than device level data by combining panel information with the census data. Of BARB’s core TV panel about 40% now have a software meter installed on PCs, laptops or tablets. My team has spent a lot of time ensuring this works at the optimal level expected by our clients.

Q. Are you also looking at fragmentation?
A. Yes, it’s easy to forget that there is increasing fragmentation of TV viewing. We must develop ways to measure viewers as they go further down the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) watching different types of programmes, what many refer to as “the long tail”. We’re working on ways to improve the collection of this data.

And this is all happening alongside running the existing measurement service which is incredibly complicated. There are continuous challenges and complexities in measuring in an industry that is fluid and changing. Broadcaster updates such as BBC3 moving to be exclusively online require immediate updates to our systems, so we are constantly ready to adapt.

Q. What’s impressed you most since starting at Kantar Media?
A. That’s easy, the technical expertise. Even though I was a heavy user of BARB data, and represented the BBC on the BARB board, it was only when I joined Kantar Media that I realised just how complicated the process is.

An extremely high level of technical skills are needed to work out what should be in the meters, software or hardware to capture viewing behaviour. There are super clever people here who have an incredible amount of technical knowledge, and are patient enough to talk me through it!

Find out more about the BARB TV Player report here, or view the latest reports on the BARB website, here.

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