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GB News launch: dividing opinions but driving “great” viewing figures

The UK news broadcasting landscape experienced a shake-up this week as GB News launched. It is the biggest news channel debut since Sky News back in 1989.

The brainchild of veteran journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil, the new station commenced at 8pm on Sunday 13 June. It’s available on all major broadcasting platforms, including Freeview, as well as online and via an app.

Neil’s shaped the channel’s positioning to be a counterpoint to other major news outlets in the UK, especially the BBC and Sky News. He deems both to be too much a part of the political, media, academic, and business elites, unrepresentative to a huge swathe of public opinion, and unwilling or unable to ask the tough questions.

Unlike the BBC and Sky News, the new 24-hour channel is not a rolling news channel. GB News is instead positioning itself as providing “personality-led opinion programming.” It will feature predominantly discussion and debate around key, topical issues.

GB News features a wide array of well-known journalists and personalities to front the debates. Aside from Andrew Neil himself, there are also the likes of Kirsty Gallacher, Alistair Stewart, Simon McCoy, and Dan Wootton.

Although voicing itself as balanced, it’s made no promises around political impartiality, nor being afraid to court potential controversy. Therefore it’s no surprise that since its launch we’ve seen several brands having panic attacks around association with the channel via their TV advertising.

Brands including Kopparberg Cider and Ikea have decided to pull activity and claim they weren’t aware of their media agencies placing spots on the station in advance.

Meanwhile, Nivea told Ripples Campaigning on Twitter its ads had appeared on the channel automatically as a result of media-buying algorithms. It went on to say it had paused advertising on GB News in line with its usual policy for any new publication or channel.

All Response Media viewpoint

Brands seemingly having little to no control over where their linear TV activity is placed is likely a result of their media agencies buying broad Sky “packages.” Such deployment sees TV Ratings delivered as and where available across the whole or majority portfolio of Sky stations. Additionally, brands may receive very limited information on spot times and positionings in advance of, or during, a campaign airing.

Genuine mistakes can of course happen. However, we strongly believe in transparency both at the booking stage and during campaigns. Line-by-line station planning should be the norm and negates this problem entirely. Even if packages are being used for pricing or other advantages, knowledge of exactly what’s in those packages should be made clear.

During campaigns, transparent, regular provision of detailed spot-by-spot level data makes clear which stations are included. As always, the devil is in the detail!

Questions as to whether a brand wishes to be associated with any media outlet is entirely a decision for their marketing or leadership team. GB News is a legal and regulated broadcaster though and, while that remains the case, our main concern is whether a station like GB News can provide solid media value to an advertiser by delivering strong audiences.

It’s very early days but, so far, GB News has performed promisingly. Average adult TV ratings for its first few days versus BBC News and Sky News are shown below, with GB News already pretty much on a par with the latter.

In terms of demographic make-up, GB News’ profile is like BBC News and Sky News in being generally more male and older (55+). However, its male skew is even more pronounced. Interestingly, it seems relatively more appealing to younger 16-34 adults versus the competition over its first few days. This is perhaps a result of the initial interest and furore around the station as wider types of viewers tune in to watch the “drama” unfold.

Interestingly, it’s also indexing significantly higher against more upscale and harder-to-reach ABC1 Adults versus both BBC News and Sky News. If GB News maintains this initial audience composition, brands looking to target such audiences may wish to give it more serious consideration.

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