Numeris (Formerly BBM Canada)

An Overview

While the roots of Canadian private radio go back to the mid 1920’s, it wasn’t until almost two decades later that independent research initiatives were undertaken. Prior to that, the broadcast media, like most others, developed their own “estimates” of both their coverage and listeners.

As the print industry moved to develop quantitative readership information it became obvious (in the words of the advertisers) that radio would have to provide a “value” for the media they were hoping to sell.

Finally, in the early 1940’s it became apparent that it would be necessary to develop independent audience measurement data which would be regarded as credible by the growing numbers of advertisers (and advertising agencies) who were contemplating the growing benefits of advertising on this relatively new, dynamic medium.

So, in 1942, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) joined with the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) and the Canadian Association of Advertising Agencies (CAAA) to develop the concept that became the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement. The members of these groups, which produced and sponsored radio programs, required reliable information about the numbers of people listening to their shows and they were simply not satisfied with the services then available either domestically or in the United States.

Accordingly, a committee was formed to develop a proposal that would lead to the formation of BBM, which was presented to the annual meeting of the CAB on February 14, 1944. It’s interesting to note that the presenter was none other than Jack Kent Cooke. (At the time, Cooke was working for Roy Thompson at Northern Broadcasting and was negotiating the purchase of CKEY Toronto)

In his closing remarks Cooke stated ” the CAB will be the first Association in the world to adopt and inaugurate a system of uniform coverage measurement. Such action will be heralded in the future as another important milestone in the progress of radio broadcasting in Canada”.

Shortly thereafter, on May 11, 1944 the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement was formed. It was set up as a non-profit tri-partite cooperative of broadcasters, advertisers and their agencies with a mandate to provide high quality, impartial, measurement of radio audiences in Canada, at the lowest possible cost to all concerned.

The founders saw it as a body financed by the media but with the advertiser/agency contingent holding 2/3 of the voting power – they were in control and therefore would feel comfortable with the credibility of the methodology and subsequent reports.

There were initially three board members from broadcast and three from each of advertisers and agencies.

Some of the early members from Broadcast were the following:

Bill Cranston 
Hal Crittenden 
Ken Soble 
Fraser Dougall 
A.M. Cairns 
Phil Lalonde 
George Chandler
    CKOC Hamilton 
CKCK Regina 
CHML Hamilton 
CKPR Thunder Bay 
CFAC Calgary 
CKAC Montreal 
CJOR Vancouver

They were joined by such notables as Ted Reynolds of Reynolds Advertising and Mary Moran of Whitehall Laboratories.

From the beginning printed ballots were distributed to Canadians by mail asking for their listening habits.

By today’s standards the forms, which asked that listening be reported “by household” as it related to only two day parts (daytime and after 6 PM) seem very rudimentary indeed. There was a simple request that a member of the family identify themselves by gender and indicate if they were over or under 21, reporting that someone in the family listened to individual radio stations once, three times or daily during the week. This was reported on a county by county basis across Canada.

Later, BBM records note that “premiums” were sent out with each “ballot” as recompense for the respondent’s efforts and cooperation and in order to assure a high percentage return. In fact the “premium” was a package of safety pins and was only increased to the princely reward of a 50 cents piece many years later.

It is also interesting to note that the initial membership fees for broadcasters were $25 per year.

Listener surveys were conducted every two years. The reports that were distributed after each survey reflected listening by call letters for the two day parts mentioned and listenership by percentage of the total population within a city or county census area. The first survey was distributed in October 1944 and the second in March 1946.

At the outset, BBM was housed with ACA who provided office space and administrative assistance. An ACA staffer, Chuck Follett was assigned to assist the new structure get underway. Chuck retired some 31 years later having devoted the majority of his working life to BBM.

The number of surveys was gradually increased to once per year and then, in 1956 to twice per year. Today BBM reports radio audiences three times per year (spring, summer & fall).

In 1952, BBM introduced a television measurement service when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) established its first two TV stations. BBM presently has almost a hundred TV station members.

On July 7, 1966, in recognition of the expanding nature of the broadcasting industry, the Board of Directors officially renamed the organization “BBM Bureau of Measurement” and drafted a new constitution. Since then, BBM’s Radio and Television Services have grown to meet the expanding market requirements of both public and private Canadian Broadcasters, as well as advertising agencies and advertisers.

As an industry rating service BBM serves a unique function for each member group. The data that BBM publishes provides all members with a common reference for both programming and advertising decisions that involves hundreds of millions of dollars.

By the 1990’s, the BBM Board consisted of 14 members: 4 representing radio stations, 4 representing TV stations, and 6 Buyers – (4 representing advertising agencies and 2 from advertising companies). Reporting to the Board of Directors were two Executive Committees developing policy which they recommended to the Board. The radio committee (REC) consisted of 18 members, and the TV (TVEC) committee, 21 members. Both consisted of broadcasters, agencies and advertisers.

As the years passed, the rapidly changing environment of the broadcast community was met by BBM with continued growth of staff, services and capacity. In September 2009, BBM Canada launched a national and regional electronic audience measurement service using its Portable People Meter system.  The company claimed that PPM could “….track the viewing habits of television viewers wherever they might be watching and can track radio listening habits with one-minute accuracy”. The portable system replaces BBM’s previous system, which was wired to a participant’s television set. Panelists now carried small devices that could detect codes embedded in the audio track of a broadcast. Approximately 9,000 panelists nationally had been outfitted with these devices. Regional data would be available from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. “The launch of BBM Canada’s radio and television PPM service is a huge step forward for the Canadian television and advertising industries,” said Jim MacLeod, president and CEO of BBM Canada. “BBM led the world with PPM technology in Montreal and Quebec regional television measurement in 2004. With five years of experience we know PPM is reliable, that BBM panelists like to use the device, and that portable measurement is much more in tune with today’s mobile lifestyles.”

In June of 2014, BBM Canada changed its name to Numeris and adopted the positioning statement, Audiences Count. The new name was accompanied by a new logo, a blue and green capital “N” comprised of dozens of small, coloured dots. These represented the bringing together of multiple data points and the individuals instrumental in making the business decisions impacting broadcasting in Canada. The organization started out in 1944 as the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement, changed its name to BBM Bureau of Measurement in 1966 and became BBM Canada in 2001. The change to Numeris was made because the organization felt it needed a “break from the past.” It was felt that the old name evoked visions of “surveys and bureaucracy” that were inconsistent with the organization’s modern operation. 

In March of 2019, Numeris announced a big change to the radio ratings system. 95 small and medium markets which still relied on diary results, would move to year-round measurement starting in the summer. Audience data releases would reflect a rolling average and data would be collected over 24 weeks during a 12-month period and reported in the Fall and Spring. The change was due to consistent recruitment challenges to achieve sufficient sample levels created in part by the shift to mobile-only households and the public’s increasing reluctance to participate in consumer surveys. These issues were hilighted in the spring of 2018 when Numeris had to suppress ratings results for 5 TV and 10 radio markets.

As of 2020, Numeris continued to use both PPM and diary methods to track individual radio listening and TV viewing habits on a daily basis.

In the summer of 2020, Numeris announced it wouldn’t be producing a fall 2020 TV Diary, with its Fall Radio Diary to move solely online and focus on top radio markets only. The agency cited the potential for a second wave of COVID-19, and the risks of not being able to physically process diaries with further lockdowns. While some Numeris staff had returned to the office, the agency said it remained unable to process physical diary returns remotely. Numeris had had an Online Radio Diary in place since 2016. With markets with the highest populations typically generating the most online respondents (40 to 50%), the agency would proceed with an online-only Fall Radio Diary with a focus on top markets only.

In January of 2021, Numeris announced it would continue providing PPM measurement for Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, and continuous measurement for the top 22 radio markets, including Winnipeg, Halifax, Ottawa, and Kelowna. However, it would no longer measure 56 smaller markets. Radio Connects then began a search for a new third-party audience measurement provider for these so-called “C Market” diary cities (like Lethbridge, Prince George, and Saint John). 

Numeris also announced in January 2021 that it was rolling out its cross-platform Video Audience Measurement (VAM) solution nationally, and scrapping its TV Diary service. While Numeris had an online Radio Diary system already in place when it was forced to transition its staff to work from home at the outset of COVID-19 in March of 2020, that was not the case with the television. With no remote TV diary in place and unable to process physical diary returns, Numeris made the call to cancel the Fall 2020 ratings release, saying it would focus on Spring 2021. Numeris said it planned to design a “hybrid” audience measurement solution for markets not measured by PPM using set-top box data, PPM and other demographic data that it was aiming to have in place later in the year following the build of a national STB solution.

In the spring of 2021, Numeris announced it was partnering with Kantar Media and Triton Digital on the first phase of its audio strategy integrating member radio census streaming data with its radio meter service. Kantar would support the proof of concept on design and methodology, while Triton would collect, filter, and standardize incoming census data. Rob Fullerton, VP, Product and Platform Management for Numeris, said the goal was to capture online listening that wasn’t included now in livestream PPM data, like wireless headphone listening. The second phase of the audio strategy would measure non-broadcaster publishers and streaming services.