“But before I take this break, let me say this. Yes, we had a bit of a rocky start in the launch of GB News - we’re a start-up! They’re always a bit rocky, these start-ups, but we are up and running, as you can see. We get better every day, and there’s clearly an appetite for what we’re doing. In under two short weeks we’ve already built a loyal audience which has beaten all of our expectations. It’s often bigger than the other news channels, and it’s growing. That’s the real story about GB News to date”. But enough.
While he continues to boast about ratings, Brillo is (albeit temporarily) quitting after just nine shows (two sets of Monday to Thursday, plus a launch night special on June 13). He has railed at so-called “cancel culture”, but has now cancelled, er, himself. And that “growing” audience isn’t. His nominated stand in, Colin Brazier, had an audience of just 35,000 last Friday for the show he co-hosts with Mercy Muroki.
The numbers coming in from overnights.tv show that GB News scored a peak viewer rating of over 160,000 on Monday June 14. A week later, that peak had halved. So Brillo scored 95,000 viewers when the football was on the other evening? Big deal. There is no competition at 2000 hours: Channel 4 News has finished, and the BBC and ITV main news bulletins don’t air until 2200 hours, with Newsnight to come later.
Moreover, both BBC News Channel and Sky News have no flagship shows in that time slot. Most of the country is watching soaps, drama, sitcoms or sport. While Brillo shuffles off to St Pancras International to begin the trek back to his upmarket Petite Maison in Grasse, he knows that GB News is not getting enough viewers to make it viable.
The GB News predictions show that: numbers between 135,000 and 150,000 were being pitched before the channel launched. Heck, there was even an expectation of securing more than 100,000 “superfans” prepared to pay extra for exclusive content. And all the while, Stop Funding Hate and Ripples are working through that roster of advertisers.
Diehard fans of GB News have variously claimed that they are looking forward to seeing Brazier step in, that it won’t stop them tuning in, that it’s a deserved sabbatical after all that effort getting the channel “off the ground”, and of course that Brexit won, and anyone who criticises GB News is a Bitter Remoaner who should get over it.
But it’s clear from Brillo’s demeanour last night that he’s badly stressed. The pool of talent that GB News has assembled is shallower than the proverbial puddle, the likes of Dan Wootton have been shown to be out of their depth, the technical backup has been woeful - because it’s being done on the cheap - and no amount of braggadocio will paper over the cracks.
Some pundits gave GB News 12 months. That is now looking hopelessly optimistic.
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