Barb is CFlight’s “Natural Home” Says Measurement Duo

Dan Meier 28 September, 2023 

Earlier this month, it was announced that Barb, the UK’s TV measurement body, will take over the running of CFlight, the cross-platform advertising solution for tracking reach and frequency across linear and VOD. CFlight was created by US broadcaster NBCUniversal, and the UK version jointly developed by Sky, ITV and Channel 4 in 2021. It will be managed by Barb from January 2024.

For Andrew McIntosh, a media consultant who leads the development of CFlight in the UK, Barb is the measurement product’s “natural home.” Though CFlight was initially run by Thinkbox, McIntosh explains that the TV marketing body was only a “temporary home” for the project.

“It’s been taken over by the home that is best equipped to run it and develop it for the future,” says McIntosh. “Barb is the leading audience measurement service for the UK. They are the best placed organisation to make sure that the quality of the data is as good as it can be.”

Justin Sampson, Chief Executive at Barb, agrees that the move is a “natural evolution” for a project initiated by rival commercial broadcasters. “I think CFlight’s collaborative approach is testament to the idea that when it comes to measurement and data, these aren’t necessarily things that should be competitive advantages for individual organisations.”

Under new management

But if the integration is such a natural fit, why has it taken until now? The short answer is that both parties have been busy. “Barb had it’s hands completely full,” notes Andrew McIntosh. And it has emerged with an expanded measurement remit, reflecting updated definitions of ‘fit-for-TV content’, as well as new members from the streaming world.

CFlight meanwhile has been managing a “mind-boggling” setup to combine data sets across different organisations. “It is just the most phenomenally complex collaboration,” comments McIntosh. “It involves 10 or 11 different organisations, regularly involves up to 50 people, and well over 100 have been involved throughout its life.”

And work is continuing on CFlight to build the functionality that buyers called for when trialling the beta product. For instance, agencies can now see frequency distribution on campaign reports. So rather than only showing how many people have been seen a campaign at least once, the frequency ranges now show how many people have seen it 1-2 times, 3-5 times, 6-9 times, or 10+ times.

The project is also “on track” to launch 13 new traded audiences in Q4 this year, confirms McIntosh. CFlight currently only measures adult audiences, but the additional demographics (eg. 16-34s and ABC1 adults) will give buyers 14 audiences to choose from when running a CFlight report.

Business as usual?

In the meantime, user access to CFlight will remain unchanged under Barb’s management. Buyers will continue to find reports directly in the CFlight portal or through their sales house contacts, just as they do now.

But Barb running the measurement project also opens up the possibility of streaming companies and even social video services joining CFlight. Netflix and Disney signed up to be measured by the audience ratings body last year. The firm also has viewing data for YouTube and TikTok “at a relatively macro level,” according to Barb’s Justin Sampson.

And providing they are “committed to working within the agreed methodology”, new Barb members could participate in CFlight, potentially expanding the scope of the project. “It enables us to open conversations with the likes of Netflix, Disney and other Barb licensees, about them coming on board,” explains Sampson. “So CFlight becomes a much broader reporting service for linear and VOD.”

Until then, Barb’s joint industry group will meet monthly (on top of CFlight’s existing weekly meetings), where representatives from the buy- and sell-side will assess priorities for the project, and allocate the development budget. “Barb is there to forge new ways of doing things through industry consensus,” says Sampson. “It’s what we’ve been doing for over 40 years, and it’s what we’ll continue to do.”

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