Talk TV – is it worth an appearance?
In case you missed it, Talk TV, the shiny new, high production channel from the Murdoch empire hit the airwaves (and the side of buses everywhere) with some gusto a few months ago. The figurehead for this new channel is Piers Morgan who describes it as a “place where people can (finally) speak their minds”. The advertisement for the new channel set the tone with a series of jabs aimed squarely at wokeness and over-sensitivity in today’s cultural dialogue. Flag firmly planted, the channel kicked off proceedings with Piers conducting an interview with Donald Trump. I didn’t watch all of it but Mr Trump allegedly walked out of the interview, which I imagine both men thought was a triumph in audacity.
In essence, Talk TV appears to be a love child of Fox News US and GB News with better production value. But for all its bells and whistles and supposed controversy, four months on, Talk TV has not been a big hit. Viewing figures have been low especially compared to other established news/opinion-led programmes as some of Piers’ most ardent trolls have been at pains to point out. The Daily Express reported in June that ratings for Piers’ headline show have dropped to about a tenth of that on opening night.
So why has it fallen so flat?
If Talk TV is aimed at the UK’s version of the Fox News audience, why does it seem to have missed the ratings mark so far? The UK public clearly has an appetite for debate around difficult and sensitive social issues as the likes of LBC have shown. In a recent set of focus groups conducted by SEC Newgate around climate change, LBC was consistently mentioned by broad range of participants as the favoured source for opinion media. Although, unlike Talk TV or GB News, LBC has clear balance with a broad range of political standpoints represented by its presenters. Perhaps a channel that has a bias all one way is inherently less interesting and appeals to a smaller audience.
LBC doesn’t shy away from controversy and confrontation to attract its audiences and has used social media platforms like YouTube to amplify James O’Brien and Nick Ferrari’s most feisty clashes with great success. Talk TV appears to be trying to replicate this, although there is still a question as to whether the social media revenues can make up for the low viewing figures given the big budget involved in its initial production. The problem is that LBC is a completely different beast from Talk TV, for one it is radio, so it is consumed very differently, and two, it has a solid and long term, day-time listener base to depend on for more traditional ad revenues alongside chasing the algorithms.
Talk TV’s low ratings are probably yet another sign that the traditional (cable) TV model is dying, and that people just consume their (opinion) media differently now. With all the streaming options and instant gratification of short form videos on social platforms, sitting down in the evening to watch cable style opinion show is starting to feel like something from a bygone era. After all, you can catchup on all the best clips from all your favourite shows on youtube or streaming platforms at your own convenience.
Talk TV may yet turn out to be more popular than Squid Game and maybe the low ratings are just growing pains while it finds a new groove – only time will tell.