Piers Morgan ratings dive as talkTV struggles to attract viewers

Flagship show audience down 80% after launch and rating agency detects ‘zero viewers’ for other key slots

Rupert Murdoch’s talkTV television channel has been rated as having “zero viewers” during primetime broadcasts, as the new television channel struggles to attract an audience despite signing up Piers Morgan as a presenter.

The News Desk, the channel’s hour-long political show hosted by Tom Newton Dunn, did not register a single viewer for half of its Tuesday evening broadcast. Although this does not rule out the possibility that some people were watching somewhere in the UK, it means the television audience was so small that it was not picked up by official rating agency, the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board.

The audience for Morgan’s flagship 8pm evening show also collapsed from an average of 317,000 viewers on its launch night to 62,000 viewers a week later – a fall of 80%.

Morgan, who tweeted gleefully about his first night television ratings, now insists he does not care about such figures. He told his social media followers that television ratings should be ignored: “Linear TV increasingly irrelevant to total eyeball potential for a global show like this, especially with younger viewers who don’t really watch TV any more.”

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News UK has claimed that clips from Morgan’s show attracted 64m views on social media platforms and news websites during its first week on air when he had an interview with the former US president Donald Trump. However, the methodology behind this claim is unclear and recent episodes of the show on Morgan’s YouTube channel are attracting about 10,000 viewers.

Trump himself has now weighed in on talkTV’s performance: “Ratings for the Piers Morgan interview with me were great! Unfortunately, after that interview, his show bombed completely because of the fake narrative he tried to portray. The fact is, I got a new closeup glimpse at Piers, and he no longer has what it takes. It’s over for him!”

Despite an enormous advertising campaign, talkTV is being consistently beaten in the ratings by fellow upstart television channel GB News. That channel was also initially mocked for its pitifully low viewing figures before gradually rebuilding its audience by promoting Nigel Farage and full-blooded culture war discussion.

The talkTV ratings are a challenge for the News UK chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, who is need of a hit after sinking tens of millions of pounds into the project. She had publicly dismissed the business case for a new broadcast television news channel as “not commercially viable” before reversing course after Murdoch signed up Morgan on a reported £50m three-year deal.

The audience for The Talk – talkTV’s nightly discussion programme hosted by Sharon Osbourne – has also dipped as low as 10,000 viewers. Osbourne only hosted three nights of the programme before announcing she was flying home to Los Angeles to be with her ill husband, Ozzy. She has since appeared on her own show via video link, with Jeremy Kyle drafted in to help with presenting duties.

On Wednesday, Morgan said his nightly programme was still performing well in the ratings when compared with other news channels: “Amazing achievement for a brand new show on a brand new network. Lots of work to do, but very encouraging.”


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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