Monday, October 15, 2007

CNBC now in Murdoch's Crosshairs

Small investors, days traders and of course anyone working in a brokerage office or trading floor have long been used to seeing the smiling faces of the team of financial reporters on CNBC. CNBC, owned by General Electric's NBC/Universal media division, has long been a staple of business and market news. While there are a handful of other financial channels, as far as market share, CNBC has been the 'Microsoft' to Bloomberg TV's 'Apple' for over a decade. Until now that is.

Rupert Murdoch, the head of News corp., and founder of the Fox television empire, has taken aim at CNBC. He has spent 2 years and will end up spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars to create Fox Business channel. Initially, Fox Business won't initially have as large a reach as CNBC - 30 million homes vs. 90 million - but that is sure to change.

The strategy for Fox Business seems to be first, to try to peel away viewers who don't work on 'Wall St.' per se, or may not be as wealthy or knowledgeable as the average CNBC viewer:

"A lot of people who don't have a lot of money (will) appreciate the fact that we're not speaking over their heads," Neil Cavuto, the network's managing editor, told Reuters recently. "That's a way of ensuring going beyond the typical Wall Street crowd." (Reuters, 10/15/07)

If they're actually looking for a demographic that doesn't 'have a lot of money', that would seem to hobble their ability to pull in large amounts of ad revenue, but I digress.

Additionally, and maybe even more dubiously, there has been talk that Fox Business will be more 'business friendly' than CNBC. Um... okay.... So CNBC, the channel of Jim Cramer and Larry Kudlow (!!) is supposedly anti-business? I wouldn't call CNBC necessarily 'pro-business', but down the line they are all supply-side, mostly pro-deregulation parrots of generally accepted pro-business policies. More importantly CNBC is, above all else, pro-investor.

Yes, during the 'Internet bubble', they were a mostly unquestioning rah-rah corps for the bull market, with warnings of risk and bear markets given little air-time. Since those days and through the Enrons and Quattrones of the business news world, they have learned their lesson and are definitely more skeptical. Yes, this is a good thing. They are at their best when they interview corporate executives and industry analysts, They will pull no punches and I believe, genuinely strive to get the real story for the benefit of viewers who have or are considering investing their money.

So, Fox Business promises to be more 'small investor' friendly and more 'pro-business' (less skeptical?). If Murdoch follows the model he used with Fox News, that being, "you can fool some of the people all of the time", then Fox Business should prove to be just as successful.

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