Written by Media, TV


If you woke up yesterday morning to learn that the audience for Wednesday night’s Champions’ League Final in Moscow peaked at a very creditable 14.6m, then you’re using overnights. These are the figures that broadcasters and others get the next day to record how many people saw a programme on TV last night.
They’re produced by BARB, they’re the product of approximately 5,100 homes around the UK which have special boxes attached to their TVs. The box records the channels you watch, and a remote control device is used to record when you’re actually in the room, and how many of you are watching a particular programme. So if you invited ten of your closest friends over to watch the game, then you can tell the machine accordingly.
But the problem is that we live in a short-term world, and overnights aren’t the full picture. The Mediaguardian story I linked to above, for example, includes a note that The Apprentice over on BBC1 only attracted 5m viewers, down from the previous week’s 6.7m. That’s not surprising as it was an attractive match (unless, like me, you went out instead). And those topline numbers will now probably be the only ones anybody quotes. But there’s a problem.
Loads of people will have recorded this week’s Apprentice. Overnights don’t include recorded programming, which tends to only get counted in the “consolidated” data which is released a week or so later.
Ordinarily, there’d also be a weekend repeat on BBC2, but since this is likely to be the episode missed by more people than any other, it’s getting a 10pm repeat on Sunday night! These numbers also need to be added in.
Finally, there are all those people who’ll have watched the episode via the iPlayer. As I write, it’s the single most popular programme on the iPlayer, and I think it’s safe to assume many people spent yesterday lunchtime catching up with it.
But since even trade magazine Broadcast only reports overnights these days, that final figure will only be available to those with subscriptions to BARB data, and it won’t be published in all the daily papers.
To be fair, the Champions’ League Final tickets will also massively under-represent the true audience. Pubs will have done great trade on Wednesday night, and this “out of home” viewing will not have been included in the overall figures.