Piers Morgan claimed an average of 317,000 viewers on his TalkTV debut on Monday night, outperforming Andrew Neil’s ratings at rival channel GB News on its opening night last June.
For comparison an average of 260,000 people (1.6% share) watched Andrew Neil’s 8pm opening show for GB News last summer, according to the figures. This means that Morgan attracted 22% more viewers than Neil for his opening show.
TalkTV’s ratings however fell significantly after Morgan’s show, remaining below GB News’ audience for the rest of the evening.
(Read Dominic Ponsford’s review of TalkTV’s opening night: TV news without the boring bits)
According to Broadcast, Morgan peaked at 400,000 viewers (2.3% share) in the programme’s closing minutes putting his peak 19% ahead of the maximum number of viewers Neil attracted. The former GB News chairman aired to an audience of 336,000 in his opening minutes.
Morgan, who has promised an “island of sanity” in “a world gone mad”, made his TalkTV debut with the first in a two-part interview with former US President Donald Trump.
Morgan, who has since been gloating about the opening night ratings on Twitter, claimed to have got five times the ratings of GB News’ most popular presenter, ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage who averaged an audience of 71,500 for his 7pm show. He also pointed out that his programme was viewed by more people on average than were watching BBC News, Sky News and GB News combined.
The interview, which aired between 8pm and 9pm, attracted a larger audience across the hour than BBC News (135,000 viewers – 0.8% share) and Sky News Tonight (107,000 – 0.7% share), according to the data shared by Broadcast. GB News’ Mark Steyn show, which was on air at the same time, attracted just a tenth of Morgan’s audience at 33,000 people (0.2% share).
Over half of Morgan’s audience (54%) was aged 65-plus, according to Broadcast.
TalkTV said that including the repeat at 11pm 588,000 people tuned in to Piers Morgan Uncensored in total on linear TV – with further viewers across digital and social platforms.
It said the channel reached a total of 809,000 people on TV on its launch night.
Morgan has been hired for the new Rupert Murdoch venture at a reported cost of £50m over three years, a salary which, as Press Gazette reported in January, almost certainly makes him the UK’s highest-paid journalist. In addition to fronting the nightly show, Morgan is also writing columns for News Corp-owned The Sun and New York Post.
News Corp will no doubt be hoping that Morgan’s popularity, which includes a Twitter following of almost eight million, will help TalkTV draw in audiences.
Farage, in comparison has 1.6 million followers on Twitter.
GB News, which launched in a blaze of publicity, has struggled to sustain a regular audience on linear TV (although it is bullish about its digital audience). Early technical issues and the departure of the channel’s biggest name Andrew Neil last September contributed to a fall in its ratings from 3.7m people in its first month to 1.7m last October. Although ratings have since bounced back slightly, to 2.2m per four weeks as of January, only Farage has managed to consistently draw in a significant audience.
TalkTV however, has promised to be less ideologically driven than its rival with Tom Newton Dunn, host of the 7pm news programme The News Desk, telling Press Gazette is is categorically “not a right-wing network”.
Despite strong ratings for Morgan, TalkTV audiences were significantly lower for the rest of its programming.
Sharon Osbourne, who controversially exited US broadcaster CBS’s The Talk last year after defending Morgan in his row over Meghan Markle, averaged an audience of 44,000 (0.3%) for her current affairs show which immediately followed Morgan’s broadcast.
Dan Wootton’s two-hour slot on GB News from 9pm to 11pm brought in more viewers (64,500) than Osbourne and Daisy McAndrew (6,300) who aired on TalkTV from 10pm to 11pm.
Newton Dunn’s news programme meanwhile attracted an average viewership of 54,200 – 32% less than the 71,500 Farage drew in for GB News for the same slot.
Scott Taunton, EVP and president of broadcasting at News UK, said: “Piers Morgan Uncensored reached more TV viewers than all other UK news channels combined last night, and we anticipate that number will be lifted by viewers across an array of other connected platforms, streaming services and listeners to the simulcast on Talkradio.
“It’s extremely pleasing that TalkTV was the most-watched news-channel across our three hours of prime time programming, including The News Desk and The Talk. I’m delighted by this debut performance and it’s a credit to the brilliant teams across News Broadcasting.”
TalkTV said that overall 62% of viewers watching during the three hours of primetime programming were in the ABC1 higher professional demographic, which it said was a higher proportion than any of the other news channels.
Times Radio, which is owned by News Corp’s Wireless group, debuted strongly in its first RAJAR report in the third quarter of 2021 with a weekly audience of 637,000, although in the latest RAJAR its reach fell by 20% to 502,000 listeners.
Picture: TalkTV screenshot