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December 23, 2022

GB News beat Sky News for prime time ratings over past month

GB News managed an average 57,107 viewers in the evenings versus 52,230 for Sky News.

By Bron Maher

GB News has for the first time averaged more prime time viewers over a month than Sky News.

In the period from 22 November to 21 December, the opinion-led broadcaster managed an average 57,107 viewers in the evenings, versus 52,230 for Sky.

The channel also averaged more prime time viewers than Sky in 17 out of the 30 days in that period.

But the start-up, which has been dogged by detractors’ jokes about small audiences since launch, continues to consistently lag Sky News for all-day viewership.

GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos told staff in a Christmas memo on Wednesday: “In just 18 months you have worked as a team to end Sky News’ undisputed 33-year reign as the most-watched commercial news channel in the United Kingdom.”

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Frangopoulos – who earlier in his career helped build Australia’s Sky News into a powerful right-leaning news channel – also noted that GB News had beat the BBC News channel for prime time viewing one evening in December.

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Press Gazette has reviewed the data on which Frangopoulos’ claims were based, from audience measurement firm the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), and verified his claims are accurate.

“Prime time” here refers to the period between 7pm and 11pm, on both weekdays and weekends. At GB News that programming block comprises personality-led talk news and comedy shows by hosts including Nigel Farage, Mark Dolan and Dan Wootton. At Sky the period typically consists of rolling news, with a documentary or current affairs programme at 9pm.

For all-day ratings over the period 22 November to 21 December, Sky News remained substantially ahead, pulling in an average viewership of 53,350 to GB News’ 31,327. GB News did not beat Sky News on any day over that period for average all-day audience size.

The ratings may indicate GB News’ evening programmes have developed a reliable audience but its rolling news coverage is yet to be where viewers go for breaking stories. Sky News this month won News Provider of the Year at Press Gazette's British Journalism Awards.

Both GB News’ average prime time and all-day viewership remained generally well below that of BBC News, which racked up 98,733 average evening viewers and 85,310 all-day viewers over the month. But GB News is ahead of its competitor opinion channel TalkTV, which pulled in an average of 17,217 prime time viewers. TalkTV’s prime time programming includes shows by Piers Morgan, Tom Newton Dunn and Jeremy Kyle.

GB News’ performance against Sky does not appear to be anomalous. In the 30 days from 23 October to 21 November, GB News beat Sky News in prime time on ten days. In the 30 days preceding that, it had beat the Comcast-owned channel on six days. Over the same 30 days in 2021, GB News’ average prime time viewership was 38,550. The 2022 figure thus represents a 48% year-over-year increase.

A Sky News spokesperson declined to comment for this article.

In his note to staff, sent to coincide with GB News' 10,000th hour on-air, Frangopoulos said GB News was growing fastest in so-called "Red Wall" areas "across the north-east (+17% in Q4 so far), the north-west (+14%), and Yorkshire (+12%)".

The ratings suggest the channel has stabilised somewhat since its tumultuous launch, which was marred by technical difficulties, an advertiser boycott and high-profile departures. Press Gazette has previously covered GB News' success building up its web reach, but ratings successes have until now remained somewhat elusive for the broadcaster.

[Read more: How GB News is bouncing back after launch wobbles and exit of Andrew Neil]

You can read Frangopoulos’ memo to staff in full below.

GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos' Christmas memo to staff

Dear All,  

As we celebrate exactly 10,000 hours on air today, I’m reminded that many commentators predicted we’d last only six months.  

And yet, here we are, thriving at what we said we’d do: disrupting the media landscape, delivering a new voice, connecting with audiences more deeply, and producing television in a new way.  

In just 18 months you have worked as a team to end Sky News' undisputed 33-year reign as the most-watched commercial news channel in the United Kingdom. 

This year we’ve faced up to TalkTV, launched the UK’s fastest-growing news radio station, and been anointed as one of the nation’s top three most loved news brands. 

We’ve built an audience of 3.3m people a month, making us 35% bigger than Talkradio (established six years ago) and TalkTV combined.  

Last Wednesday in prime, we beat BBC News – not for the first time – a remarkable feat considering some 40% of people still haven’t heard of GB News.  

On digital, our monthly website audience nearly trebled to 15m page views a month and our social reach grew from 500k to 1.9m subscribers, with 600,000 on Youtube

We’ve worked at a frenetic pace, achieving more in 2022 than most broadcasters do in perhaps a decade. 

We’ve launched multiple new shows and continued to invest in talent. We've also had to make very tough decisions to ensure our programming is not only competitive, but wins.  

We’ve secured £60m in new funding, giving us the firepower to keep innovating and building market share in the toughest broadcast market ever known in Britain. 

[Read more: GB News secures £60m investment amid WarnerBros Discovery buyout]

We’ve led the national news agenda on many important issues such as illegal migrants, grooming gangs, the aftermath of Covid, and, in the regions, the cost-of-living crisis. 

Ahead of any other channel, we campaigned successfully to remove both VAT on fuel bills, and the mandate forcing student nurses to have Covid jabs. 

In January we started playing the national anthem at 6am, heralding a momentous year of royal coverage with the sadness of the Queen’s death so soon after the joy of the Jubilee. 

In April we joined the Political Pool, which was certainly timely: in subsequent months we saw three prime ministers, four chancellors, and three home secretaries. 

We embarked on ambitious OBs, with Nigel and his team traversing the country to bring Farage at Large live to local audiences in dozens of towns. 

In June, a survey of 45,000 consumers by market researcher Savanta reported that GB News was the nation’s third most-loved news brand. It also placed us 61st in the top 100 media brands overall, ahead of the Mail, The Times, Spectator, New Statesman, and Virgin Radio. 

Our championing of the regions was evident again when the BBC announced it would stop providing live coverage of Northern Ireland’s Twelfth of July parades. We stepped in at short notice, to huge praise locally. 

In July at the TRIC Awards, chiefly voted by the public, Eamonn Holmes and Stephen Dixon were two of the four finalists for News Presenter of the Year. Eamonn won, ahead of the BBC’s Clive Myrie and Victoria Derbyshire

In September, our increased newsgathering abilities allowed us to transform Daytime into an issues-based rolling news format. We also launched the GB News People’s Poll, and brought in subtitles. 

We started a PR drive. As you know, the nation’s media now embraces our exclusive stories daily, crediting GB News hundreds of times a week in every publication from The Times and Mail, to The Guardian and Pink News

In just 12 months, GB News has grown from an outcast and outlier to an important player in Britain’s broadcast media landscape. We are firmly part of the mainstream media. 

But we are not establishment media. 

Our staunchly non-metropolitan attitude infuses all we do. In the PM’s leadership race, other channels hosted formal studio debates from lecterns. We took Liz Truss to a Working Men’s club in Leigh and let the audience, all locals, ask the questions.  

Our “People’s” style was evident at the Jubilee. With no Royal Pool access, we reported everything from a viewpoint outside the palace, and from a street party in Staffordshire. 

We captured the flypast with only two cameras and David Starkey said: “This is a time for thanking God we’re British” which, as one journalist noted, was the kind of patriotic enthusiasm that’s rare in news broadcasting.  

GB News has cemented a style that is proudly British, warm, authentic and unpretentious. 

It’s resonating. Our fastest-growing areas, in terms of BARB, are in Red Wall regions across the north-east (+17% in Q4 so far), the north-west (+14%), and Yorkshire (+12%).  

The channel is unrecognisable from this time last year, and unrecognisably better. It’s been exhilarating and immensely rewarding.  

It’s been hard too. We’ve made mistakes and learned tough lessons as we’ve navigated the trials of doing something new, in a difficult market, during a brutal year on every level. 

At times the challenges against us have felt relentless. Mostly, we handle these with good humour. Almost daily, I hear the phrase “you couldn’t make this up!”. 

I haven’t always had time to acknowledge each of you, so I would like to do that now. I can’t name you all, or even list all our incredible achievements here, but I know how much you’ve done, and the passion you bring, so thank you, and Happy Christmas to you and your families.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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