ITV has seen almost £200m wiped off its market value after Piers Morgan’s decision to quit as host of its breakfast show, Good Morning Britain, in a dispute over critical remarks he made about the Duchess of Sussex’s mental health.
On Wednesday, the day after the news of the presenter’s departure broke, the broadcaster’s share price slumped by 3.8%, almost 5p.
Morgan had been at the centre of a controversy since Monday’s edition of the show, in which he said that he “didn’t believe a word” of Meghan’s admission to the interviewer Oprah Winfrey that she had experienced suicidal thoughts. “I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report,” he said during the show.
Record numbers of viewers had tuned in to hear Morgan’s take on Winfrey’s interview with the Sussexes, helping GMB beat the ratings of rival BBC Breakfast for the first time.
“Investors may be a little worried about the loss of ratings for GMB – it wasn’t exactly doing that well before he joined and its primetime slot will have repercussions for ads,” said Neil Wilson, chief markets analyst at Markets.com. “Love or loathe, Morgan boosted ratings. It could also be that investors are worried about an investigation over comments made by Morgan on air. You cannot be owning ITV and worry about one host, can you?”
Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has waded into the fray, with an investigation into Morgan’s comments under the harm and offence rules, after it received more than 41,000 complaints about Monday’s programme.
ITV, which attracted more than 12m viewers to its exclusive UK broadcast of Meghan and Prince Harry’s tell-all interview with Winfrey, said at its annual results presentation on Tuesday that the pandemic wiped more than £200m from its profits last year.
However, chief executive Carolyn McCall said that an advertising recovery is on the way, with April revenues forecast to be up 60% to 75%, after the worst slump in ITV’s history in the same month last year.