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June 22, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:27am

‘This is just the beginning’: Rebekah Brooks responds to TalkTV critics as ex-Mirror editor given top job

By Charlotte Tobitt

News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks has said she is “confident” TalkTV ratings will grow – but that streaming and online video content is more important.

In an email to staff on Wednesday afternoon, seen by Press Gazette, Brooks (pictured, left) also issued a rally cry that “the whole company needs to be behind us” and said she was “so proud of what we have created so far”.

TalkTV launched eight weeks ago with three evening primetime shows: the daily news programme The News Desk presented by ex-Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn, Piers Morgan Uncensored, and panel show The Talk. During the daytime it broadcasts Talkradio programming, although more TalkTV shows are due to come including a look at the day’s news hosted by Jeremy Kyle.

How is TalkTV faring in the ratings battle?

Linear ratings have been lower than they may have hoped with a reach of 1.9 million people on linear TV in May, compared to 2.2 million for GB News, 8.9 million for Sky News and 12.3 million for the BBC News Channel, according to the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB).

However News UK on Wednesday announced it had appointed Richard Wallace (pictured, right), who edited the Daily Mirror between 2004 and 2012 before moving into television, as head of TV for News UK Broadcasting to lead the channel’s next stage. From July he will oversee all of TalkTV’s editorial output and have ultimate responsibility for its financial success.

TalkTV sets its sights on digital

Brooks responded to criticism of TalkTV’s ratings so far by saying that although she is “confident” linear audiences will grow, the ultimate goal is to tap into increasing ad revenues for streamed and online video.

She told staff: “It takes time to grow a new audience and our industry competitors have had some fun knocking our viewing figures on linear TV.

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“This is just the beginning. News Corp has a track record in trying new things and doing what it takes to get it right – our leadership built Fox News, Sky News and Sky News Australia.

“We are confident that we will grow that traditional TV audience, but the future we are building for is the delivery of news and views (from showbiz and sport to politics and business) via streamed and online video. Advertising revenues for connected TV and for programmatic video are in double digit growth. We are professionalising our output so that all of our brands are well positioned for that growth.”

Brooks said investment in broadcasting was "key to our future" - referring to all News UK brands, which include The Sun and The Times titles.

[Read more: How GB News is faring versus TalkTV in airwaves battle]

"All of our brands should be multi-format and we must report our stories in the way that audiences want to consume them," she told staff.

"To succeed, we must be bold and experiment with new and creative ideas. Of course we continue with the written word – through printed newspapers and online - but audiences also want to listen and watch our reporting, through audio and video, live and on-demand.

"Existing audiences and younger generations will discover our brands on social media and through streaming platforms."

News UK previously claimed content from Piers Morgan's TalkTV show, which also airs on the Fox Nation streaming service in the US and on Sky News Australia, reached 64 million people worldwide in its first week.

This figure included all online viewing of content from the programme on Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, Instagram, Youtube, Samsung TV Plus, News Corp owned websites The Sun and the New York Post, and the TalkTV website and app - but excluded linear TV and radio figures Fox Nation streaming.

Rallying staff, Brooks said: "We have always set out to grow new audiences and find new revenues in order to secure a sustainable future for all of our journalism. We have masses of talent in this business and there are endless opportunities to innovate and to bring News UK’s journalism to life on screen.

"The whole company needs to be behind us and when you have an idea for presenting stories differently, you must surface it. We couldn’t do this without the brilliant original journalism we already produce throughout News UK."

In a statement, Wallace said: "TalkTV is innovating and producing news programming for the streaming age. The role will combine many skills from the newsroom with TV programming. The opportunities for news content are extraordinary right now and News UK’s world class stable of journalism provides a great launch pad."

Press Gazette is hosting the Future of Media Technology Conference. For more information, visit NSMG.live

Picture: News UK

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