What is a TVR?

This is a question that many marketers don’t want to ask, especially when they are halfway through the agency’s TV presentation. The trouble is, the agency team have been talking about TVRs for about 20 minutes, the coffee’s gone cold and you daren’t chip in to ask “exactly what is a TVR?”

Put very simply a TVR is a TV Rating point and it means a given percentage of a base population watching a TV programme where that base is defined as 1) a given target audience in 2) a given TV region or area.  What’s important here is that because we are talking percentages the bases from which those percentages are taken can change, and this can mean huge differences in the volumes of audience actually seeing an ad. Let’s look at some examples of the effect of different base criteria when establishing TVRs.

If a TV spot runs across the UK TV network and delivers 1 Adult Network TVR how many people will see that spot? The base criteria here are 1 TVR, meaning 1% of a) the UK TV Network and b) the adult demographic population base. If there are 49 million adults in the UK i.e. across the whole UK TV network, then 1 Network Adult TVR is 1% of 49 million. That’s 490,000 Adults.

But we could also have 1 Adult TVR in the London ITV region; these are very different base criteria.  If there are 9.5m adults in London then 1 Adult TVR in London would be 1% of 9.5m – that’s 95,000. So we can already see that 1 Adult Network TVR equates to more than 5 times the audience volume of 1 Adult London TVR. Remember 1 TVR against one set of base criteria is not the same as 1 TVR against another set of base crieria. In other words, not all TVRs are equal.

Then we can look at different audiences. The UK media industry breaks audience down from all Adults 16+ into a number of sub-groups refined by age and socio economic group so we might have ABC1 Adults or Men aged 25-44 or ABC1 Women or Women aged 25-54. Each of these sub-groups (sometimes called “demos”) has a different size of population base.

So, for example we might look at a programme that delivers 1 ABC1 Adult Network TVR. As there are 26.7m ABC1 Adults in the UK network area then 1 ABC1 Adult Network TVR equates to 267,000 ABC1 Adults.  If there are 5.8m ABC1 Adults in London, the 1 ABC1 Adult London TVR would equate to an audience of 58,000 ABC1 Adults.

We need to remember that when we measure a sub-group, we are only measuring audience in that sub-group. So, whilst a programme may deliver 58,000 ABC1 Adults, it could still deliver 100,000 Adults in total. 100,000 Adult viewers in London would mean the programme had an Adult London TVR of 100,000 / 9.5m – that’s 1.05 Adult London TVRs.

TVRs are important because they are used to populate models which estimate the coverage and frequency effects of an advertising campaign. As TVRs build so do coverage and frequency. More on that in later posts…