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July 21, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:28am

GB News says it is seeing ‘incredible trajectory’ online as 3.7m tuned in over first month

By Charlotte Tobitt

GB News reached about 3.7m viewers on linear TV in its first month on air – just over a quarter of the BBC News Channel audience.

However, the fledgling brand said social media engagement figures show it is resonating with younger audiences to a perhaps surprising extent.

Head of digital and presenter Rebecca Hutson (pictured) said GB News is really a “digital media business that has a TV channel attached”.

In the four weeks to 11 July GB News reached 3.7m viewers compared to 12.6m for BBC News, 8.4m for Sky News and 4.6m for Sky Sports News according to Barb (the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board).

On its launch night, 13 June, GB News beat both BBC News and Sky News with a 46% share of the three combined.

The That’s TV network, which operates local TV services that carry local news and networked programming, reached 2.3m people in the four weeks to 11 July while London Live, owned by the proprietor of the Evening Standard and Independent, reached 1.7m.

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Pakistani news channel Geo News reached 474,000 people, rival 92 News reached 275,000 and world news channel Arise News reached 235,000 viewers. Some news channels available in the UK such as CNN International and Al Jazeera English are not subscribed to Barb.

[Read more: GB News in-depth briefing as Mark Dolan and Nigel Farage join and director of programmes quits]

GB News bosses have become frustrated by the focus in the media on linear-only audience figures following reports that viewership fell below the amount which is measurable by Barb on two occasions last week. It happened as viewers boycotted in response to presenter Guto Harri taking the knee live on air. He was suspended and later quit after being told he breached the channel's editorial standards.

Hutson told Press Gazette: “We know that traditional linear consumption has really changed. People don't sit at home for three hours and watch a show. Instead they want to snack on the best bits for them on the platforms that they're already using.

“So that's why we publish natively across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and we tailor the content specifically for the platform that it's on so we're pretty agnostic in terms of how the content looks and feels across the different destinations that we have and the website.”

Online content 'really resonates'

For example, she added, the brand is more likely to put an eight-minute monologue on YouTube and short snippets on Twitter which is a “much quicker platform”.

“Rather than trying to turn all of our platforms into a homogenous output, we spend a lot of time looking at the analytics and amending how the content appears on there and that's really paying off," Hutson said.

“The linear Barb data tells one story, what we see online is that the content really resonates with a much bigger surprising audience.”

Online, GB News is benchmarking itself against News UK's TalkRadio, which was relaunched in 2016, and Times Radio, which went live in June last year.

Press Gazette has below compared the social media follower counts of all three brands plus the longer-established LBC, which began broadcasting nationwide in 2014.

GB News has surpassed Times Radio on all measures. It is above both combined on Twitter and Instagram and expects to overtake Talkradio on YouTube within weeks, in part because GB News anticipates "much higher" figures once it begins streaming its programmes live as TalkRadio does.

In its first five weeks GB News’ YouTube channel saw 9.9m video views and 601,000 hours (about 25 days) worth of content viewed with 138.4m impressions.

Hutson said: "We've seen, in terms of enthusiasm for the content, this incredible trajectory."

GB News said it has already recorded 39.6m video views on Twitter and 240.7m tweet impressions, or 7.8m each day.

On Facebook it has had 8.6m video views with a reach of 9.4m and 4.3m engagements.

GB News uses Instagram, where it has so far had 4m impressions with 32,000 followers and a reach of 669,200, partly for content that lets its followers get to know its talent and see behind the scenes.

Hutson said the success of this strategy so far reinforces the idea that people “buy into the talent and the viewpoint and the conversations and the chemistry of the shows”.

Young talent utilising TikTok

On TikTok GB News has had 24,500 likes and more than 350,000 views across 30 videos and 4,000 followers so far.

Hutson said the numbers may be "quite surprising for people who would maybe think that we don't have relevance or resonance to that younger audience when we clearly do".

Hutson said explainer videos decoding the news are proving to work best for TikTok. The most-watched GB News TikTok so far explains who Sajid Javid is after he replaced Matt Hancock as Health Secretary.

@gbnewsSajid Javid jokes about Matt Hancock 👀 ##gbnews ##learnontiktok ##uknews ##politics ##matthancock♬ Traveling - Kush Mody

Many news organisations still don’t see TikTok as being worth the effort or cost. Only 3% of people get news on TikTok, according to the latest Reuters Institute Digital News Report, but it offers access to a younger demographic that publishers are struggling to reach. Almost a third (31%) of 18 to 24-year-olds use TikTok, and 9% get news on it.

[Read more: BBC's Sophia Smith Galer on TikTok fame and why she's 'flummoxed' more publishers don't copy Washington Post's 'Dave']

Hutson said TikTok was a space GB News is "really interested in occupying".

"We've got lots of young talent involved both on air and in the newsroom so we've got no shortage of willing people who want to tell stories on TikTok and who can tap into the way that young people are consuming news on that platform."

Third of viewers under 35

On TV only, excluding the likes of TikTok and Instagram, almost a third (32%) of GB News' audience is aged between 18 and 34. Some 39% are aged 55 and above.

Some 62% of the TV audience is in the middle class ABC1 demographic - a drop from the 82% ABC1 demographic thought to have tuned in for Andrew Neil's opening show on 13 June.

Hutson added: "We are reaching people - we're reaching different sorts of people on different platforms.

"The ethos of the business has been we are a digital media business that has a TV channel attached to it or at least that's how I like to think of it.

"The linear channel gives us 18 hours of incredible content each day which we can then use to grow audiences across our platforms.

"Everyone is always thinking about how will this perform on social, how can we engage our users whether it's polls or reading out their views or involving them in the conversation, sending in video messages, all that stuff, and using this digital touchpoint to close the gap between what happens on air and the audience at home. So we look at the audience as a whole rather than just the TV."

Picture: GB News/Screenshot

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