News UK has revealed it will launch its own TV channel in early 2022, with Piers Morgan as the first major signing.
The channel, which will be called TalkTV, will feature “proper” hourly news bulletins, sports and entertainment shows as well as current affairs, debate, opinion and documentaries, News UK said.
In a deal that could make him the UK’s best-paid journalist, Morgan will launch a TV show that will air on the Fox Nation streaming service in the US and Sky News in Australia as well as TalkTV in the UK. It will also be available for syndication elsewhere.
Morgan, who has been off TV screens since March when he left Good Morning Britain after criticising Meghan Markle on-air, said: “I’m thrilled to be returning to News Corp which is where I began my media career more than 30 years ago. Rupert Murdoch has been a constant and fearless champion of free speech and we are going to be building something new and very exciting together.
“I want my global show to be a fearless forum for lively debate and agenda-setting interviews, and a place that celebrates the right of everyone to have an opinion, and for those opinions to be vigorously examined and challenged.”
As part of the deal Morgan has also been signed as a weekly Sun and New York Post columnist while rights to his next book, a follow-up to Wake Up about the “war on free speech”, have been signed by News Corp’s HarperCollins UK. He will also present a series of true crime documentaries.
News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch (pictured with Morgan) made him editor of the News of the World aged just 29 in 1994. This deal marks Morgan’s first return to the Murdoch stable since his departure from that paper in 1995 to join the Daily Mirror. He has most recently been a columnist for Mail Online.
Murdoch said: “Piers is the broadcaster every channel wants but is too afraid to hire. Piers is a brilliant presenter, a talented journalist and says what people are thinking and feeling.
“He has many passionate fans around the world and we look forward to expanding his audience in the UK, at Fox Nation, Sky News Australia, The Sun and the New York Post.”
News UK has invested in new TV studios at its London Bridge headquarters, where Morgan’s global show will be filmed and produced.
Winnie Dunbar Nelson, who worked with Morgan for almost ten years in total at Good Morning Britain and CNN, has been named executive producer.
News UK TV channel
TalkTV will use talent and programming from across its brands, including The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, Times Radio, Virgin Radio, Talkradio and Talksport. More talent will be hired for the evening primetime programming.
News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks said: “We are committed to providing choice for television and streaming viewers and bringing the best of our journalism to the screen.
“Taking advantage of modern technology, we can produce high quality shows at low cost.”
The channel will be available over linear TV, as well as online streaming platforms and News UK’s own websites and apps, despite News UK previously saying it had scrapped plans for a traditional TV channel as the considerable costs meant it would not be financially worthwhile.
The announcement comes as GB News, which launched in June, is in turmoil with the departure of chairman and lead presenter Andrew Neil.
News UK has already soft launched Talkradio TV on connected TV platforms Samsung TV Plus, Apple TV, Rakuten, Samsung TV Plus, Roku, YouTube and on Amazon Fire TV, streaming live through its own app.
Scott Taunton is leading the TV launch having expanded his remit from Wireless chief executive, overseeing Virgin Radio, Talkradio and Talksport, to chief executive of News UK Broadcasting.
Taunton said: “TalkTV will provide a rich mix of entertaining and informative shows that no other service provides.
“News UK’s brands already engage millions of people through print, digital and audio and we are using those brands to create video programming.
“We have some of media’s biggest names on our radio stations and in our newspapers, as well as some of the most articulate thought-leaders who reflect many different viewpoints. Some of the most talented people in news, sports and entertainment journalism will be taking part as contributors or creating original content for talkTV.”
A News UK TV channel was licensed by Ofcom in November last year. However the company then decided it would make its channel available on streaming services rather than over the airwaves and news of the project has been quiet since the spring.
News UK’s head of broadcasting David Rhodes, the ex-Fox News vice president who joined the media giant in 2020 to lead its push into video, left his role in April as the company decided to look at producing standalone streaming shows and expand the video live-streams of its radio shows with new streaming partners.
Rhodes had put together a review of opportunities in the TV market and deemed it to be “not commercially viable”.
Brooks said in a staff memo there was demand for alternative news provision but the “considerable” costs of running a channel meant it would not be worthwhile financially.
News UK launched Times Radio last year as an audio extension of the Times brand and sees video as the next step. After selling its stake in Sky, News UK parent company News Corp does not currently have a UK TV news outlet.
Its proposals for a TV channel have been frequently compared to GB News, which was watched by 2.1m people on linear TV in the four weeks to 5 September according to industry data from BARB. This is down from 3.7m in its first month, although the channel was pleased with its “incredible trajectory” on social platforms.
The BBC News channel reached 11.8m people in the month to 5 September while Sky News reached 8.7m.
GB News said on Thursday: “Congratulations to Piers Morgan. We love competition. Bring it on!”
Picture: News Corp