Two years after its launch, GB News has a simple mission: to be Britain’s largest news channel by 2028.
With an average daily audience of about 34,000 in May, the target is ambitious, said CEO Angelos Frangopoulos.
Many media analysts and commentators wrote off the channel’s chances after its launch was dogged by technical issues and chairman Andrew Neil abruptly quit in 2021.
But Frangopoulos is confident plans to further expand the loss-making broadcaster into digital media and political coverage – and even bring its highly targeted and often regional UK coverage to the US – will make the channel the “mainstream” choice for will make news.
This positioning is important for a channel that is viewed by many in the industry as the UK equivalent of US broadcaster Fox News. The former Sky Australia director rejects the idea that GB News is right-wing, despite a roster of presenters that includes Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, as well as Telegraph journalist Christopher Hope, recently recruited to lead his political team.
Frangopoulos told the Financial Times that he wanted to reclaim the phrase “mainstream media” for GB News. He views rival groups as “establishment media . . . we are basically the media for the mainstream. It’s an important, subtle difference.”
“This isn’t just Channel Farage; this is a broad cross-section of voices and perspectives and journalism,” he said.
On a weekday morning, the small studio and newsroom in the basement of an office building in Paddington bustles with activity. Presenters and journalists mingle in the small reception area that leads directly to the news floor, as the anchor takes over mid-morning.
The anchor controls its own autocue: Much of production at GB News is automated or aided by artificial intelligence, a sign of how the broadcaster is trying to keep its operations streamlined as it tries to become profitable.
Brand awareness had been an issue, Frangopoulos said, beyond a “certain elite who know what GB is doing”. This meant “steadier, slower growth”.
The share of viewers who watch all day has risen from 0.43 percent to 0.57 percent in the past year. The number of digital viewers and listeners for his radio station is also growing, while Frangopoulos said his website had overtaken rivals such as the i-newspaper for the first time in April.
But GB News lost more than £30 million in the year to May 2022, on a turnover of £3.6 million, according to accounts filed in March. Claire Enders, a media analyst, said news outlets are rarely profitable without global reach, a tough task for GB News.
“We always knew this was going to be tough,” Frangopoulos said. “It has been more difficult. We are still challenged. But it keeps getting better.”
The channel relies on advertising to make money and faced a campaign to encourage an advertiser boycott at launch. Frangopoulos admitted there was still some “pushback” from brands.
However, he added that ad relationships were changing, with the highest number since launch and “more high-profile brands on the channel.”
“We are now having much more sophisticated conversations with more seniors with agencies and clients. The longer you go, and the more audience we draw, that has value. People want to sell things,” he said.
Frangopoulos said the channel now regularly beats rivals for ratings at certain times. Profitability was “still some way off, but we can see it in the distance and we’re very focused on accelerating that as much as possible,” he added.
Meanwhile, investors remained committed, he said. GB News raised a total of £120 million, with Brexit-backed hedge fund boss Paul Marshall and Dubai-based private investment group Legatum investing £60 million last year, becoming the majority shareholders following the departure of the founding investor in the US media group Discovery. Directors of All Perspectives Limited, the channel’s parent company, include City fund manager Helena Morrissey.
The deep pockets of the backers allow the group to invest – in new presenters and journalists, as well as studios in Westminster to broadcast its political coverage.
Frangopoulos also wants to turn GB News into a “full-service media brand”. Digital expansion has attracted a US audience, prompting the company to consider investing in the region ahead of next year’s presidential election. This month, GB News aired an interview from Farage with potential Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The key for presenters has been authenticity, Frangopoulos said, although freer expression has caused some problems.
Regulator Ofcom had twice found the channel to be in “significant” breach of UK broadcasting rules, most recently with an interview by author Naomi Wolf’s Mark Steyn who described the Covid-19 vaccine rollout as akin to “mass murder”.
Frangopoulos said that Steyn no longer worked for the channel and that “no talent, no matter how talented they are, no matter how many ratings they get, is above the regulations and our own editorial charter”.
But, returning to the gist of the GB News proposal, he added that there should be room for honest opinions, and he was concerned about the “cancellation culture”.
“People shouldn’t be afraid to talk about things. Why are those positions cancelled?” he said. “The people trying to cancel don’t agree with those views. It is harmful to democracy.”