TalkTV, the new channel from Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, will go live on April 25 with Piers Morgan as the ‘uncensored’ primetime presenter. During a rehearsal in London, the channel’s top team told Ian Burrell why they believed they would not face boycotts from the advertisers that surrounded rival GB News, while their star host promised to ‘cancel culture’. Is.
Piers Morgan has been ‘on tour’ in Australia and New York in recent weeks, re-sharpening his TV skills ahead of the biggest moment of his career.
He flew to Sydney on the Murdoch family’s private jet and proceeded from the couch to Australian breakfast shows. As a guest on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News in the US, he applied bellows to his feud with Meghan Markle and reflected on Will Smith’s state of mind.
While he leads the promotional campaign for Piers Morgan Uncensored, which debuts on April 25 in the UK, US and Australia, intensive preparations are underway in London, where the show is being made, to ensure that Rupert Murdoch gets a bang for his money.
In Ealing Studios, west London, a bespoke set has been created by Emmy-winning designer Jim Feinhagen, who co-hosted The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, not to mention Morgan’s chat shows on Nation World News background was made.
Across the city at News UK’s headquarters in London Bridge, the head of operations, Scott Taunton, EVP, President of Broadcasting, News UK, makes no effort to hide his nervousness. “I wake up every minute of every night to see what can go wrong and we then put together a list of what can go wrong for the team and it’s as long as my arm.”
Rehearsals are taking place, using stand-ins, with Pierce watching and commenting via video link. “The channel is now effectively live – it doesn’t leave the building but we are testing it and it does take over from time to time,” Taunton says. “I’d be kidding you if I said I’m pretty sure it’ll go off without a hitch and whoever said that would be a liar.”
Morgan’s show is the primetime flagship of TalkTV, a multi-platform channel, which News UK is launching on the linear and on-demand platform. Taunton certainly has in mind the disastrous launch of GB News in June, which was billed as a great rival to Rupert’s ambitions in UK television. The GB news set was so dark at launch that viewers joked that presenter Andrew Neill was broadcasting from his “man cave”.
Winnie Dunbar Nelson, executive editor of Piers Morgan Uncensored, says Morgan learned the lesson from Barbra Streisand, who told her that having “the best light in the business” attracted her to her Nation World News show. “It’s so important for people that they not only feel comfortable with the person they’re interviewing, but that it’s also good,” says Morgan’s editor.
The 360-degree set in Ealing, which uses multiple screens for different segments of the show, is designed to attract guests of a caliber that they will be immediately known to audiences from Melbourne to Los Angeles . It’s also big enough for Morgan to generate the social media-friendly stunts he’s known for: a fight with Mike Tyson, playing the piano with Barry Manilow or being beaten by Serena Williams at tennis. “He likes to step away from the desk and experience his guests in other ways,” says Dunbar Nelson, Morgan’s producer at Nation World News and Good Morning Britain. “We wanted a lot of screen, we wanted a lot of versatility and we wanted a lot of space. So we basically took a concrete slab and built it at Dream Studio. ,
Will Pearce’s Polarization Stop Advertisers?
One possible reason for Taunton’s sleepless nights could be Morgan himself. Pierce may be the most famous name in British media, but many people find him repulsive. He thrives on controversy but it causes problems. When she closed the set of Good Morning Britain in March 2021 after saying she didn’t believe Markle’s claims of feeling suicidal, she produced the most-complaining TV episode of 2021, with 54,595 people Appealed to Ofcom (which approved the GMB).
When GB News landed last year, brands including Ikea, Grolash, Koperberg and Octopus Energy suspended advertising amid online criticism of the channel’s alleged values. Could Pierce, who is writing edgy columns for the Murdoch tabloids The Sun and The New York Post, instigate a similar boycott?
Piers Morgan Uncensored will feature a monologue segment in which the host locks in camera over a hot topic, reveals Dunbar Nelson. “It’s a feature of the show that we’ve never done before and it’s something we think would be really cool to share on social.”
Taunton says he does not fear advertiser protests, adding that this has not happened at TalkRadio, the Murdoch-owned station that will form the backbone of the TalkTV schedule. “My hope is we won’t be in that place,” he says. “From time to time there may be an opinion that an advertiser or a particular group is not happy with this and we will work with them.”
The message for advertisers emphasizes the D-word: TalkTV will have a variety of views.
“When you hear our list of upcoming names you won’t be able to point to it and say this is a station that is coming from an ideological position,” Taunton says. “It is a station that has a broad church of presenters and talents and hopes to achieve a broad church of consumers who come to see it in its various forms.”
Sharon Osbourne has been hired to host the prime-time panel show The Talk. “When you start looking at the diversity of people in The Talk, what you’re expecting is to get very different insights and opinions that are diverse in every way,” says Taunton.
TalkTV will have its own news bulletins and has brought in Kate McCann from Sky News as political editor, and Taunton says it will be “news brought straight to you in a way – we’re not skewering the output”.
pitch to advertisers
News UK has appointed Sky Media as its sales house and is busy communicating with potential commercial partners, “sharing clips and videos that determine what the channel is all about and give them a sense of the talent they have.” which we are bringing”, he says. In addition to spot advertising on the linear product, and pre-roll around connected TV and social media outputs, TalkTV wants to do sponsorship deals around program segments (Ofcom-regulated, it can’t do sponsorship deals for entire shows).
TalkTV will not be Fox News UK, Taunton insists. “If News Corp. or Murdoch wanted to bring Fox to the UK, they would have done so.” Instead, it is a product that stabilizes News UK’s established news brands and provides its insights on a “24-7 available-everywhere product for the digital age”. TalkTV will be available on Sky, Virgin Media and Freeview, but will also be available on Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Samsung TV Plus and in clips on social media.
Former political editor for The Sun Tom Newton Dunn will host the one-hour-long news show, ahead of Morgan’s schedule. His guests will include collaborators from The Times and talkSPORT, and Pierce will pop up at the end of the hour to tease his own show. Newton Dunn’s Show and The Talk will be produced from News UK’s new TV studio in London Bridge.
GB News also rejected the idea that it was “Fox News UK”, saying it would have a wider variety. Its brand today is closely associated with the anti-awakening stance of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, its star host, and most of the output.
While Taunton claims that TalkTV is “not going to be a genre of television that comes purely from that canceled culture space”, the culture war has been a main theme for TalkRadio. That station’s daytime roster of Julia Hartley-Brewer, Mike Graham, Ian Collins and Jeremy Kyle will be streamed on TalkTV through London Bridge Studios, which is being modified so that the channel’s look, from ident to lower -Up to the third graphics, be consistent with the output. ,
And Morgan, the author of several books on canceled culture, has described the “main purpose” of his show to deal with a phenomenon “that has infected societies around the world”. Dunbar Nelson says there will be a broad agenda that sees the host “champion the little boy, point out villains for what they do wrong and raise heroes for what they do right”. The show will “involve vigorous debate and we want to heavily showcase that dirty word: fun.”
He has accompanied Morgan for interviews with former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who Morgan questioned his views on homosexuality). Morgan has sat down with a string of US presidents, including Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He is a friend of Donald Trump, who has given him a series of exclusive interviews, even inviting him to Air Force One. “He’s definitely going to be someone we’d like to talk to,” Dunbar Nelson says.
It’s been 12 years since he helped persuade Morgan to open an account on Twitter, where he now self-promotes to nearly 8 million followers, sharing TalkTV memes with them, split between saints and devils. Happens and teases: “Love him or hate him, you won’t want to miss him.” The team has registered him on TikTok, a platform where TalkTV content will be shared. “I don’t know if I’m going to talk to him to do a makeup demo,” Dunbar Nelson said.
In getting the show right, he is being supported by series director Aaron Gordon, who launched the GMB and political show Peston at ITV, and Vivek Sharma, another ITV veteran who is now executive at News UK Broadcasting. are manufacturers. It is because of such expertise that Taunton believes TalkTV will overcome any pre-launch early problems and change the ecology of British (and international) television on April 25. “We are having trouble shooting and I believe we have given this our best chance to come straight out of the block as a phenomenal TV service,” he says. “But there is still a lot of work to be done.”