Thinking About the BBC Ratings and Renewing TV Shows

As well as the regular TV ratings, the BBC also has something called the Audience Appreciation Index, which helps them gauge the reaction from viewers to a program. It’s an imprecise science, and that’s before you start trying to get solid numbers and methodology out of the BBC.

So when programs get renewed, is it ratings, AI or managers taking courageous decisions?

Originally provided by the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), each programme’s AI score is now researched in-house by the BBC. It has become a shadowy, hard-to-find number which carries an almost mythic quantity for fans of programmes with poor ratings. If the audience love it so much, then a Corporation which does not chase ratings should rely on that for commissioning.

This is still a coarse measurement, not just because of the small sample size, but the single AI number cannot be broken down into why the audience appreciated a programme. Did they like it because it was funny? Entertaining? Made them think? This problem has been there for many years — witness the Annan Committee’s comments in 1974 that “[working] on audience appreciation is too broad a sweep.”

More thoughts, and how this impacts on shows such as Doctor Who and Horne & Corden over at my column on The Stage’s TV Blog.