BARB, the audience measurement organisation used by the UK television industry, has outlined steps it is taking to measure the use of interactive services.

The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board can currently only provide measurement for interactive services on satellite television where they are separately identifiable as part of the broadcast using a specific Service Information code.

This is limited as a method of measuring interaction and BARB has been looking at other detection methods that could be introduced. The main techniques being investigated include identifying interactivity through the infrared signals from the remote control, audio detection, or inserting codes in the visual output using either watermarking or a barcoding technique that has been developed by the BBC.

The problem with tagging approaches is that they require the insertion of additional codes by the application creator or broadcaster, which may not always be practical.

“Fresh thinking needs to be applied to find appropriate technical solutions to extend the capture of interactive viewing,” said BARB research director Tony Wearn. “The techniques we are investigating need to be tested for the amount of information that could be captured, the main type of data that could be expected as output, including at what level it would be statistically appropriate to report and ultimately whether it will deliver to the industry something of value.”

BARB says the next steps are to complete the investigations and come to a conclusion on the feasibility and what is viable for the market.

There is considerable frustration among broadcasters at the level of information available on the use of interactive services.

For its satellite platform, Sky is setting up its own SkyView panel of 20,000 homes, considerably larger than that employed by BARB. This will measure every remote control command through the set-top box, which can be associated with subscriber data and even correlated with data on consumer purchases to create a potent research tool.