Andrew Neil launched GB News with a pledge to avoid following the “metropolitan mindset that already dominates so much of our media”. The veteran broadcaster also said the channel would be “proud to be British.”
GB News may have successfully identified a gap in the market. YouGov polling from earlier this year showed that more than a quarter of Britons (27%) think the quality of news reporting would be better if it was less London-centric – increasing to a third of the public in the North of England (34%) and Wales (32%), and nearly two in five Scots (38%).
And if TV news does prioritise people who live in the capital, it is prioritising a group that is significantly less interested in it. While almost half of Britons get their news from TV (47%), this falls to just two in five Londoners (39%) – who are more likely to use news websites than the rest of the country (52% of Londoners; 42% of Britons overall).
Neil’s opening monologue also highlighted attitudes that resonate with the wider public. Data from YouGov Profiles shows that Londoners are less likely to agree that they’re “proud to be British” (66% Londoners; 75% of non-Londoners). And while most of the public aren’t familiar with “woke” - the concept that gave Neil’s “Woke Watch” its name - as a term, 55% of people outside the capital think social movements have gone too far – next to just 43% of people within the capital.
What’s the audience for GB News?
In terms of age, GB News’ professed attitudes are more resonant with Baby Boomers than with any other audience: this age group are more likely to agree that they’re proud to be British (81% vs. 74% Gen X; 65% Millennial; 63% Gen Z); that social movements have gone too far (65% vs. 56% Gen X; 43% Millennial; 30% Gen Z); and that the country has lost its moral compass (68% vs. 65% Gen X; 60% Millennial; 56% Gen Z).
The channel’s presenting lineup also appears tailor-made for an older audience. YouGov Ratings data shows that, while two-thirds of the public have heard of Neil (66%) – GB News’ chairman and the project’s most vocal advocate – this rises to over eight in ten Baby Boomers (83%) and seven in ten Gen Xers (72%), falling to just half of Millennials (50%) and under half of Gen Z (43%). This older group are also more likely to have a positive opinion of Neil: 38% of Baby Boomers, 32% of Gen X, 18% of Millennials, and 19% of Gen Z like him.
It’s a similar story for other presenters like Neil Oliver and Alastair Stewart, though Kirsty Gallacher is a notable exception.
Go anti-woke, go broke?
GB News has hired personalities that appeal to an older, non-Metropolitan viewership. But can it make money – especially in light of advertiser boycotts in its first week?
Older viewers are most likely to mute TV commercials (Baby Boomers 46%; Gen X 43%; Millennials 40%; Gen Z 33%) and least likely to say advertising helps them choose what to buy (Baby Boomers 23%; Gen X 35%; Millennial 46%; Gen Z 52%).
GB News has taken a defiant stance towards these advertisers, perhaps because advertising is supposed to be just one piece of the overall marketing mix– the CEO has spoken of a desire to attract “superfan” subscribers who will pay for exclusive content.
However, our data shows that older viewers are less likely to pay for digital content, whether it is from a newspaper (Baby Boomer 10%; Gen X 12%; Millennials 17%; Gen Z 15%) or magazine (Baby Boomer 6%; Gen X 12%; Millennial 17%; Gen Z 14%). Londoners, though, are much more likely to pay for this content than the people outside London (Digital news: 21% vs. 12%; digital magazines; 17% vs. 11%).
Our data shows that GB News’ ambition to appeal to those outside of the “metropolitan mindset resonates with an older audience that is suspicious of social movements and mostly lives outside of London. It is, however, harder to make money from these viewers, who are less receptive to advertising and less likely to buy paywalled content than those within the “metropolitan bubble”.
Meanwhile, if GB News is looking for a figure with cross-generational awareness, it may want to expedite negotiations with Piers Morgan. While he may be a polarizing figure, he has 98% name recognition and wider generational appeal – and though his ratings are low with Gen Z (9%), 36% of Baby Boomers, 32% of Gen X, and 33% of Millennials like him.
This article originally appeared in The Drum.