Google is working with research company Kantar to create a panel of households to measure online and television viewing activity to develop improved understanding of cross-platform usage in the United Kingdom. Google is now consulting with the media and advertising industry about how to make the data available. BARB is meanwhile developing its own approach, also in conjunction with Kantar, while Nielsen and comScore are also competing to measure online viewing.

Google owns by far the most popular online video property, in the form of YouTube. It has access to detailed analytics on YouTube viewing, and deep knowledge of online behavior in general.

Kantar, a research company with a number of subsidiaries, within the WPP advertising group, is one of the world’s largest insight, information and consultancy networks.

Google and Kantar are developing a panel of 3,000 households, on an opt-in basis, to inform the industry on consumer habits.

Jonny Prothero, research manager at Google UK, is reported as saying that the data would be freely accessible, but not necessarily free.

The advertising industry publication Campaign says Google is consulting with bodies such as IAB, the Internet Advertising Bureau, and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, ISBA.

Guy Phillipson, the chief executive of the IAB said he welcomed new efforts to understand how online channels work in conjunction with other media.

Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising at the ISBA, welcomed any initiative that could offer a single view of audiences, as current resources are inconsistent and often incompatible.

BARB, the company that measures audiences on behalf of British broadcasters, announced at the end of June that following a year of testing it will begin measuring television viewing on computers with a web TV viewing meter in 100 panel homes in the second half of 2011. BARB then aims to extend the use of the meter to up to 1,100 homes during 2012.

Bjarne Thelin, the chief executive of BARB, said: “The prospect of a measurement which enables web-TV viewing to be examined alongside television set viewing, from a single source, will have a number of applications.”

BARB is using software meter technology from Kantar Media, which is the research supplier for its core measurement service.

In May, Nielsen and UKOM launched VideoCensus to measure online video viewing. It reported that nearly 27 million people a month in the United Kingdom viewed streamed video from home and work computers.

While BARB and Nielsen are known for television ratings, comScore is perhaps better known for online measurement. The comScore Video Metrix measurement system has been running in Europe since 2008, after launching in the United States two years previously.

According to comScore, there were over 32 million online video viewers in the United Kingdom in April, watching for on average 17 hours a month. Germany now ranks as the leader in online video viewing in Europe, with 44 million unique viewers, watching nearly 20 hours a month.

The results of panel-based measurement of online video viewing are often inconsistent, although fundamentally it is an incredibly measurable medium.

The statistically derived ratings that broadcasters rely on as their common currency are increasingly inadequate as audiences fragment and viewing behavior becomes more complex.

The advertising industry desperately needs improved measurement across multiple platforms.

Google, with its mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, is well placed to apply its technology to the task.