According to those familiar with the scheme, Pierce Morgan and Alan Sugar are among the top broadcasters courted by the Murdoch media empire with their new small-screen ventures.
News UK, Murdoch’s British newspaper operator, headed by former CBS and Fox News executive David Rhodes, has developed several current affairs and entertainment programs that will launch early next year, which will be distributed online and potentially through traditional TV channels.
Rhodes began hiring production staff and approached some of Britain’s best-known TV personalities, becoming the face of a new venture based around three or five prime time shows.
The project is one of two important efforts to open up the long-dominated UK TV news market by the BBC, other public service broadcasters and Sky News, launched by Murdoch in 1989 and sold to the US cable group Comcast in 2018.
GB News, a right-wing news service that secured initial funding from Discovery, announced last month that the BBC had hired broadcaster Andrew Neal to lead the schedule.
Separate News UK ventures are eagerly supported by Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, but some key details, including the overall branding, are fluid. According to people briefed on the discussion, the program will not be co-branded with News UK’s stable newspaper titles, including The Sun and The Times.
When Sir Sugar was contacted about the venture, the Financial Times hung up and did not respond to the message.
The planned content mix, which includes celebrity shows in the form of magazines, suggests that Murdochs is targeting a different market than GB News and other rolling news channels.
However, like them, this project faces the commercial challenge of building a sustainable business model in a relatively unprofitable sector. Sky News loses tens of millions of pounds per year.
The preliminary plan includes a format for live political discussions. Celebrity and entertainment news hours; A dedicated business show where a well-known entrepreneur runs around a struggling company.
Lord Sugar, Amstrad’s founder, best known for releasing the British edition of The Apprentice, people say they are discussing the business show. A colleague filming in Australia hung up the phone at the Financial Times when contacted about a venture and did not respond to the message.
Others have turned to broadcaster Morgan, a former newspaper editor who signed a contract to release Good Morning Britain for ITV by the end of next year. He declined to comment on any move.
One key question is whether News UK should start out as a pure streaming service (which Murdochs sees as the growth engine for video), or whether it can help attract and attract talent, audiences and advertisers from existing TV platforms.
Options that News UK explores include buying small free broadcast channels that can be used to host primetime programs, or entering into content agreements with existing broadcasters. Unlike GB News, the News UK venture has not yet obtained an Ofcom broadcast license.
The mix of content that spans light entertainment and political commentary suggests that the channel is far from the UK version of Fox News, a cable news network controlled by Murdoch, known for its primetime host’s support of Donald Trump.
Lachlan Murdoch told colleagues his motivation was to ensure the afterlife of News UK’s Fleet Street journalism, in part by extending the output to audio and video. News UK launched Times Radio earlier this year, entering the broadcast market dominated by the BBC for a long time.
News UK declined to comment.
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