GB News, the new opinion-based Andrew Neil-led TV channel, has claimed a bigger audience share than BBC News or Sky News on its launch night.
It has shared data from BARB (the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board), indicating it was watched by 164,400 people between 7pm and 11pm. The channel went live at 8pm.
BBC News had 133,000 viewers in that time period while Sky had 57,000, according to the figures. This means GB News had about a 46% share of the three news channels being compared.
Launch night saw Neil anchor a one-hour welcome programme introducing many of the channel’s presenters and setting out their mission statement. Former Sun showbiz editor Dan Wootton then took over for his inaugural Tonight Live show.
According to analysis by Broadcast magazine, the viewer demographic for Neil’s opening show was 57% male, 52% aged 65+ and 82% ABC1
The first day was beset with technical teething problems, such as voices out of sync and mics not working, and reviews have been mixed so far.
Times columnist and TV reviewer Carol Midgley gave the launch three out of five stars, noting the teething problems proved a “soft launch” was wise and that there had been comparisons with student and local TV, although she said the channel “may yet bite”.
Midgley wrote: “This did not feel like shouty TV but you did have to wonder, if it is setting a ‘fresh agenda’, whether having Nigel Farage and Lord Sugar as some of Wootton’s first guests was helpful.”
The Telegraph went one higher with four stars out of five, noting that the technical glitches “may well have boosted GB News’s cause, giving more credence to the idea that they are ‘disruptors’, outsiders taking on the slick establishment”.
TV and radio editor Chris Bennion added that GB News had likely done enough to woo the BBC sceptics it is chasing: “The nit-pickers and naysayers won’t be convinced by any of it, but Wootton’s opening speech – Dan’s Digest – held the key to GB News’s potential future success.
“Wootton was furious at the idea of another delay to pandemic restrictions. Many watching will have been too. Forget the glitches – GB News is already speaking their language.”
The i – less politically aligned with GB News than The Telegraph – also gave it four out of five.
Adam Sherwin, arts and media correspondent, said the channel “certainly lived up to its billing to offer something very different from the BBC and Sky News, first night mishaps and all.
“It could become essential viewing for those who both love and hate its agenda.”
However others were less convinced. Guardian features writer Stuart Jeffries gave it one star and said he thought it would be gone within a year.
He said the channel’s claim to be unbiased, shared by economics and business editor Liam Halligan, was “risible” – citing Wootton’s railing against lockdown.
The Independent labelled it a “disaster from start to finish”.
And The Herald in Scotland, giving the launch two stars, said it had “certainly made the eyes water” with a first hour led by Neil that “looked a lot like metropolitan media navel-gazing”.
“Andrew Neil had promised a new type of news delivered in a new way,” wrote politics and features writer Alison Rowat. “Funny, but from where I was sitting the new dross looked a lot like the old dross.
Early Twitter reaction:
— Kate Hoey (@CatharineHoey) June 14, 2021
#GBNews is a great success. Unbiased and factual,real journalism, no propaganda.
— 17.4M (@festa197) June 14, 2021
— Zane Graham Woods (@Zane_G_Woods) June 14, 2021
— David Windass (@windassone) June 14, 2021
And the not so good…
My last word on GB News. I tried it with an open mind but it's fairly obviously just a mouthpiece for the type of self-important, spoilt British people who need a dry slap. I give it till August for its first OFCOM censure.
— Chris Merriman (@ChrisTheDJ) June 14, 2021
The wonky links and rants about taking the knee and the Duchess of Woke from @danwootton’s intro sound not so much like his Sun column but Alan Partridge. But early days
— jane martinson (@janemartinson) June 13, 2021
Dan Wootton has just spent five minutes on #GBNews broadcasting conspiracy theories about coronavirus being a “scare story”.
I’m old enough to remember an hour ago, when Andrew Neil promised that his new network wouldn’t spread baseless fake news
— Sam Bright (@WritesBright) June 13, 2021
Picture: GB News/Screenshot