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July 25, 2022updated 18 Nov 2022 12:46pm

TalkTV ratings three months in: News channel a distant fourth for TV viewers

By Aisha Majid

Rupert Murdoch’s UK news channel TalkTV launched at the end of April but has since struggled to make a splash in the battle of the TV news ratings.

Even Piers Morgan, the channel’s biggest name presenter, has largely failed to draw in a notable number of viewers when compared to GB News, Sky News and BBC News.

However TalkTV’s social media reach, while still lagging behind rivals, is growing.

Despite big investment in staff and studios and a listing on Freeview, TalkTV reaches only 3% of the UK TV viewing population per month for an average of visit length of eight seconds, according to Barb.

Planning to turn things around, last month News UK announced former Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace as the company’s new head of TV overseeing TalkTV’s editorial output. News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks also told staff in an email last month that while she is confident the channel’s ratings will grow, its future lies in news and views via streamed and online video.

Below Press Gazette takes a look at how the channel is doing on linear TV and on social media as it marks three months since launch.

How do TalkTV ratings compare to GB News on linear TV?

The channel’s first full month of Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) data for May showed its reach on linear TV was low. The channel reached 1.9 million people in the UK, compared to 12.3 million for BBC News, 8.9 million for Sky News and 2.2 million for fellow opinion-led broadcaster GB News.

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TalkTV also scored worse than GB News on linear TV engagement with viewers tuning in to watch for an average of eight seconds during the month, less than a quarter of the average 35 seconds audiences spent watching GB News.

GB News, which launched in June last year, has made inroads against other news providers in the coveted 7pm to 11pm primetime slot, challenging Sky News for viewers.

TalkTV's evening line-up includes ex-Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn's news bulletin up against GB News' Nigel Farage at 7pm and Piers Morgan against GB News' Mark Steyn at 8pm.

Morgan's show launched to an average audience of 317,000 on Monday 25 April with the first instalment of his two-part interview with former US president Donald Trump.

However, since then, TalkTV in primetime has been consistently outflanked by GB News. Of the major UK commercial TV news channels, TalkTV's primetime audience is the smallest with its share regularly below 0.2%, with rivals consistently two or three times higher in June.

Several TalkTV shows have also statistically had no viewers at all. In its first month, almost 200 hours of programming were broadcast to an audience that was too small to be picked up by BARB’s monitoring.

How is TalkTV performing on social?

Echoing what senior leaders at GB News have told Press Gazette about its own strategy, TalkTV maintains that its ultimate goal is to grow its digital multi-platform audience. "All of our brands should be multi-format and we must report our stories in the way that audiences want to consume them," Brooks told staff in an email last month. 

Even Morgan, after initially taking to Twitter to boast about his opening night figures, has since changed tack, saying "linear TV is increasingly irrelevant to the total eyeball potential for a global show like this".

News UK earlier said that content from Morgan's TalkTV show was watched by 64 million people worldwide in its first week through digital channels including 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.

While its linear TV audience has largely not shifted, TalkTV’s social reach has continuously grown, building on the social media presence of sister radio station Talkradio.

The channel's Facebook page currently counts 240,731 followers (as of 25 July), while there are 311,000 subscribers to its main Youtube channel. Its dedicated channel for Piers Morgan Uncensored, which launched less than three months ago, has grown to 115,000 followers and has had almost 15 million video views.

Its social reach is however behind that of GB News on all main platforms. On Youtube TalkTV counts 311,000 subscribers compared to 514,000 for GB News, while its reach on Twitter is 219,000 versus 415,000 for GB News. It has, however, surpassed LBC on Tiktok (54,000 vs 22,000 followers).

When it comes to video views, a key metric digital metric for broadcasters, daily views while sometimes in the hundreds of thousands are a fraction of those at GB News. In the week to 5 July, the videos on TalkTV’s main page had an average of 54,000 daily views compared to 478,800 for GB News, according to social media analytics tool Popsters.

Engagement with TalkTV's content is good, however. Although the channel posts less often than rivals such as GB News and Sky News, when this along with follower count is taken into consideration, our analysis finds that TalkTV scores better for engagement per post. 

Picture: TalkTV screenshot

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