Friday 16 October 2020 10:27 am

Murdoch’s TV plans mature as News UK searches for more big names

Rupert Murdoch’s plans to regain a footing in the British TV market have stepped up a gear as his media empire circles some of the biggest names in broadcasting to front its new channel.

Alan Sugar and Piers Morgan are among the stars that have been approached by News UK over the new venture, the Financial Times reported.

News UK, which owns the Times and Sun newspapers, has tapped former CBS News and Fox executive David Rhodes to lead the new TV channel, which is set to launch next year.

The channel will be centred on three to five hours of programming during prime time and will be primarily focused on online streaming, though the company may also explore a traditional linear TV format.

Lord Sugar, who is best known for fronting The Apprentice, has been approached about hosting a business show that would involve a famous entrepreneur turning around a struggling business, according to the report.

Outspoken TV personality Morgan, who presents Good Morning Britain on ITV, is also said to be in discussions with Murdoch’s media group.

News UK’s new venture is one of two major news TV launches in the pipeline as media executives look to challenge the dominance of the public service broadcasters and Sky News.

GB News, which is backed by US broadcast giant Discovery, last month announced it has poached BBC veteran Andrew Neil to front its programming.

The right-leaning rolling news channel, which is also set to launch next year, has positioned itself as an opinion-focused alternative to incumbent broadcasters, drawing comparisons to US network Fox.

But the News UK channel is likely to be less-focused, instead offering a mix of current affairs and entertainment programming.

Sources close to the venture told City A.M. the company was exploring “innovative” ways to create new revenue, rather than relying on traditional ad spots.

The group has already branched out into alternative business models through its radio output, such as Chris Evans’ breakfast show on Virgin, which ditched adverts in favour of a sponsorship deal with Sky.

The launch will mark a return to the small screen for Murdoch after he offloaded Sky to US media group Comcast for £30bn in 2018.

News UK has been gradually expanding its audio and video output amid declining sales of its flagship print newspaper titles.

A fully-fledged TV channel will also extend the company’s efforts to create engaging visual content that can be shared on social media.

The group has already sought to boost brand recognition by posting video clips of programmes from both Talk Radio and Times Radio, which launched this summer. 

A spokesperson for News UK declined to comment.