BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, has signed a contract with a start-up that it has been nurturing through its Labs accelerator programme in a bid to measure audience engagement with its media content.  

The start-up, known as CrowdEmotion, uses facial coding webcams to capture people’s emotions and see how they react to certain TV shows.

The BBC Worldwide Insight team said it plans to run CrowdEmotion trials on a number of BBC TV shows, including Top Gear and Sherlock – two of the organisation's most popular and lucrative series.

David Boyle, executive vice president at BBC Worldwide Insight, said: “This is the first study of its kind for BBC Worldwide to measure people’s emotional responses to programmes using a technology-led, neuroscience approach.

“CrowdEmotion’s ability to capture, record and quantify our audience’s emotional attachment and engagement to our TV shows, places BBC Worldwide at the forefront of global audience research and ultimately determines what our fans love to watch”.

The pilot study, which involves 200 participants in the UK, will measure viewer’s happiness, surprise, anger, fear, disgust and sadness.  

A second wave of trials will take place in Russia and Australia, followed by a third in six other international markets. Further monthly global research studies are also in the pipeline.

CrowdEmotion CEO Matthew Celuszak said: “Our partnership means we can push boundaries in TV audience research, help quality content cut through the clutter and humanise a brand.  With today’s media noisier than ever, we’re here to innovate, bring emotions to life and reshape broadcast media through our findings.”

Alongside CrowdEmotion, five other emerging digital media companies are participating in this year’s BBC Worldwide Labs programme, now in its third year. The other start-ups include:

  • Seenit is an app that allows brands to launch video-filming campaigns and mobilise smart phone users to co-create contents.

  • Rezonence’s advertising format allows publishers to monetise their digital content by asking consumers to “pay” with engagement.    

  • OP3NVoice makes video and audio search easy. With a few lines of codes, OP3NVoice allows users to search for the contents of video and audio just like how they would search for texts.

  • Verticly is an e-commerce system that allows brands to serve adverts in real time that are relevant to users and increase conversion based on user engagement.

  • Buddy Bounce is a platform that helps celebrities and brands connect better with their fans. Fans can share pictures, texts, videos and other content on BuddyBounce to earn credits and get noticed by their favourite brands and celebrities.

BBC Worldwide said the start-ups were selected based on their "natural alignment" with its existing business units and international brands, and the start-ups’ potential global reach. The organisation added that a number of the companies are involved in business areas that have not been explored by previous Labs companies, such as audience research, video search and advertising.

While the start-ups get free office space and access to the BBC’s network, they don't get the funding that many other accelerator programmes offer. For example, Barclays offers start-ups £12,000 in seed funding when they accept a place on its accelerator programme, while Startupbootcamp offers €15,000.  

However, unlike many other accelerator programmes, BBC Worldwide does not take any equity in the business.