Update 2 on 16 January: Broadcast data body Barb has now said GB News averaged 33,000 viewers to its New Year’s Eve fireworks coverage.
Barb initially gave broadcasters data showing GB News had surpassed one million viewers at once for the first time just after midnight on New Year’s Day. But Barb later said there had been an error and viewers to other channels had been misattributed to GB News.
The total final figure for BBC One was 12,076,000 viewers consolidated (over seven days with catch-up included) and 11,152,000 on the day itself (live viewing and viewing on same day as live).
Update on 5 January: Broadcast data body Barb has said figures showing GB News appeared to cross the one million viewer mark in the early hours of New Year’s Day may not be accurate.
The Barb overnight data covering the period when several broadcasters were showing the New Year’s fireworks from London may not be right due to the way it is measured, the provider has now said.
As a result, some viewing that should have been attributed to BBC One and other channels may have gone to GB News.
A Barb spokesperson told Press Gazette: “The New Year’s Eve Fireworks were broadcast across several channels with very similar audio feeds.
“Barb’s ability to report which channel is being viewed relies partly on matching the audio output from TV sets to a channel.
“In this instance, our audio-matching process has incorrectly attributed some viewing of the New Year’s Eve Fireworks to GB News that should have been attributed to BBC One and other channels.
“We are investigating the issue and will issue amended viewing data as soon as possible.”
Original story on 2 January: More than one million viewers tuned into GB News at once during the early minutes of 2024, according to BARB overnight viewing figures.
This is the first time GB News has claimed this many simultaneous TV viewers since its June 2021 launch.
At 12.11am on New Year’s Day GB News reported 1,034,000 viewers, according to BARB overnight figures seen by Press Gazette.
GB News rang in the New Year with a New Year’s Eve Live programme hosted by comedian Andrew Doyle, which featured a countdown and the London fireworks from moments before 12am to about 12.13am. Doyle is normally a presenter on its nightly Headliners paper review show and the programme looked at the highlights of 2023 and the next day’s headlines with a guest panel.
The London fireworks show was watched by 11 million people (61% share) on BBC One, according to Broadcast magazine. Press Gazette understands that Sky News had a peak average audience minute of 625,000 at midnight and a total reach of 1.2 million between 10pm and 1am.
GB News also noted a bump at 1.01pm on New Year’s Eve when viewers appeared to tune in for the live fireworks from Sydney, Australia. It had 275,300 viewers at that time, with a share of 3.42%, but was back down to 125,900 and 1.59% a minute later.
Overall in November, the latest month for which public BARB data is available, GB News had a total reach of 3.5 million people with an average daily viewing time of 54 seconds.
This compares to a monthly reach in the UK of 10.9 million for the BBC News Channel, and an average viewing time of one minute and 58 seconds, while at Sky News it was 8.2 million and one minute and 22 seconds respectively.
GB News viewing figures: ‘Started beating’ other news channels in 2023
GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos told staff in an email, sent just before Christmas and seen by Press Gazette, that the broadcaster’s TV share was up 54% compared to the same time a year earlier and that its reach had grown by almost 500% online.
Frangopoulos told staff: “We have: the nation’s fastest-growing television news channel, fastest-growing news website, fastest-growing commercial news radio station, and fastest-growing news app. Our Youtube channel is the fastest growing in the industry.”
According to Press Gazette’s monthly top-50 ranking, GB News was the twentieth biggest news website in the UK in November with an audience of eight million or 16% of the population. This compares to Sky News in seventh place with 17.1 million and a 34% reach.
GB News Radio, the audio simulcast of the TV channel which went live in January 2022, had an average of 415,000 weekly listeners in Q3 2023, up 26% compared to Q2 but down 4% compared to the same period a year earlier.
Frangopoulos added: “In April, we started beating other news channels regularly in prime and breakfast. Since then, we’ve beaten BBC News 14% of the time, and Sky News 34%.”
GB News first averaged more primetime viewers than Sky News over a month in the period from 22 November 2022 to 21 December 2022.
Other achievements of the year, according to Frangopoulos, included the construction of new Westminster studios and arrival of head of politics and political editor Christopher Hope from The Telegraph, the switch to a .com website, the launch of a paid membership offering, a bigger satellite footprint enabling GB News to reach the whole of Europe, the launch of GBN America, the appointment of more specialist journalists, and Nigel Farage’s team being finalists for Scoop of the Year for The Coutts Files at the British Journalism Awards.
Frangopoulos also made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Ofcom’s ruling that the Don’t Kill Cash campaign, launched by GB News last year in recognition that the vulnerable in society may struggle with the switch to entirely contactless payments, was in breach of the Broadcasting Code.
He wrote: “Our journalism advocated passionately on issues close to our community’s hearts. More than 300,000 people signed the Don’t Kill Cash petition. Ofcom didn’t like it, but at least they didn’t object to Patrick [Christys] stripping on stage with the Dream Boys.”
Frangopoulos added: “When I look back at 2023, I see this as a pivotal year, a launch pad towards our goal to be the number one news channel by 2028. We’ve proved how much can be achieved with nimble ingenuity, good humour, and bloody hard work in the face of every challenge.
“I call it ‘The GB News Way’.”
GB News wants to be ‘Britain’s election channel’
In 2024, GB News is billing itself as “Britain’s election channel” ahead of the UK general election which is expected to come this year, particularly promoting Hope as the face of its political coverage.
A Conservative Home poll of 631 Tory party members published on Monday found that more than half (57%) now regularly watch GB News – close behind the BBC (61%).
Conservative Home editor Paul Goodman assessed GB News’s place in the political spectrum as “somewhere to the left of Reform UK (Richard Tice is a presenter) but well to the right of, say, the Conservative Parliamentary Party’s centre of gravity.
“That’s where a lot of our readers are, not to mention our panel of Tory members,” it said. “So perhaps it’s no surprise that over half of them now watch the channel.”
Sitting Conservative MPs Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lee Anderson are currently regular presenters on GB News while married pair Esther McVey and Philip Davies stepped down after McVey’s appointment to the Cabinet in November. The channel has also signed former prime minister Boris Johnson as a presenter and commentator starting early this year.
As reported by the i, under Ofcom rules anyone standing for election in the upcoming ballot will have to step back from their shows during the purdah period for four to six weeks ahead of polling day. This could include primetime host, Reform UK backer and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage if he decides to stand again. Johnson has stated he does not plan to run and so would be allowed to be on-screen throughout.
Adam Baxter, director of broadcasting standards at media regulator Ofcom, told the i: “The rules are very clear. Candidates in UK elections must not act as news presenters, interviewers or presenters of any type of programme during the election period.”
But he added: “The new channels are staffed by a lot of experienced journalists who are aware of the compliance rules so we don’t anticipate any particular problems at the election.”
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