The BBC has hailed an “encouraging start” in the face of “particularly tough competition” for The Nine, its new flagship daily news hour for Scotland, despite a 73 per cent audience drop across its first two programmes.
BBC Scotland launched as a brand new channel on Sunday, with The Nine’s first live airing at 9pm on Monday meeting with praise from critics.
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It had an average audience of 45,000 and a 3.2 per cent share in Scotland on Monday, but the following night viewer numbers dropped to an average of 12,000, equal to a 1 per cent audience share.
The Nine’s audience figures picked up again last night, doubling to 23,000, roughly half its opening night viewing figures.
The BBC said the nightly TV news hour, which is presented by ex-ITV journalist Martin Geissler and the BBC’s own Rebecca Curran (both pictured), had had an “encouraging start”.
The corporation said the programme’s second show had “particularly tough competition” against popular Scottish-based drama Shetland on BBC One, which clashed with The Nine for the whole hour.
Viewers on Twitter had raised concerns that The Nine would clash with entertainment shows, which typically air in the peak 9pm timeslot.
BBC Scotland’s head of news and current affairs Gary Smith told Press Gazette last week that 9pm had been chosen for the news hour in response to research that showed a lot of people “don’t have time to really sit down to focus on the news in that tea time news slot at 6pm to 7pm”.
The BBC therefore decided 9pm was a “good time to be able to sit down and properly watch a programme that covers all the news of the day but also presents some detail”, Smith said.
BBC Scotland has an initial overall budget of £32m a year, of which £7m is going to news, although this is not exclusively for The Nine.
A BBC Scotland spokesperson said: “The programme’s remit is to cover a broad range of stories from across Scotland, the UK and around the world and we have consistently said that any new entrant into a crowded market can take time to establish its audience.”
Rival STV told Press Gazette its STV News at Six attracts an average audience of 419,000 viewers with a 30 per cent share, which has remained consistent so far this week.
The broadcaster said alongside its annual results, published today, that its 6pm half-hour bulletin is the most watched news programme in Scotland.
Scottish viewers can still access the BBC’s network news on the News at Six or Ten on BBC One each night, followed by Reporting Scotland covering news and weather across the nation.
The BBC has hired 80 journalists to bolster its newsgathering in Scotland with the channel’s launch, with roles based across the country.