Rupert Murdoch pulls Fox News-style channel off air in UK after failing-audience

Oliver Darcy, CNN | 3/5/2024, 2:27 p.m.
Rupert Murdoch is pulling the plug on the television broadcast of his right-wing UK outlet TalkTV, a blow to the …
Fox News founder, Rupert Murdoch, has taken his UK right-wing outlet TalkTV off the air. Mandatory Credit: Victoria Jones/Press Association/AP via CNN Newsource

Rupert Murdoch is pulling the plug on the television broadcast of his right-wing UK outlet TalkTV, a blow to the media mogul who launched the opinion-focused venture just two years ago with an aim of replicating the success of Fox News in the UK.

In a memo to staff on Tuesday obtained by CNN, Scott Taunton, TalkTV’s president of broadcasting, said that the network will shutter its linear television broadcast in the summer and move to an online-only operation, focusing on streaming platforms.

“While linear TV has been a good marketing and awareness window for Talk, we now need to focus our investment on where the eyeballs are and where the revenues are in growth. In order to be successful, we need to prioritise being where the audiences are, rather than asking them to come to find us down the channel guide,” he said.

After building a global newspaper empire and witnessing the ratings and profits success of the right-wing Fox News Channel in the US, Murdoch sought to break into the UK television business, replicating the opinion-driven talk format. But the outlet, which launched in 2022 with a roster of high-profile hosts, struggled to build an audience, failing to rival established centrist news outlets like the BBC and Sky News.

“A large proportion of our live viewing is already through streaming on televisions and we intend to continue to grow this. Clips will continue to be shared through social media,” Taunton said. “There is no doubt over Talk’s future as an audio and video channel, it just won’t be distributed on linear.”

The decision to shutter the traditional broadcast comes just weeks after Piers Morgan, the provocative political commentator and former CNN host, announced he would depart TalkTV and move his “Uncensored” show to YouTube, where he has amassed 2.4 million subscribers.

Morgan told the news outlet Semafor in an interview last month that his show was not reaching a wide audience on the network, with the vast majority of his viewers watching on digital platforms.

“There’s something quite anachronistic about a show like mine still trying to create old fashioned TV for a pre-scheduled time slot each night for a relatively small audience — when we’re getting such gigantic audiences digitally,” Morgan said.

“The frustration for me has been continuing to create a TV-format show when that’s not how 95 percent of my audience is watching it,” he added.

The moves underscore the dramatic and sweeping changes impacting the traditional television business, with audiences rapidly cutting the cord in favor of streaming and online services and advertisers shifting their dollars to digital platforms where audiences have gravitated. In the last year, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and former CNN anchor Don Lemon, who were fired from their rival cable outlets on the same day, have launched talk shows on social media platforms, hoping to find a new audience online.

“More and more, audiences are consuming video news and opinion online through their phones and this evolution is set to continue. It’s also where the advertising revenues are,” Taunton said in a memo announcing Morgan’s departure. “Creating professional quality, TV-like video that does well digitally – via streaming services and social media – will be the focus of future investment for all our brands, including Talk.”