By Sherri Killam-Williams
Special to TelevisionWeek
People with their hands on the spigots of the world’s capital tune to Bloomberg TV to get business news without all the banter, said its editor, Ken Kohn.
Bloomberg TV, which has been on the air for more than 10 years, has 34 million full-time subscribers in the United States and 200 million worldwide. Before it brought business news to television, Bloomberg was bringing business news and analyses to the desktops of executives via the Bloomberg Professional service, which allows its clients to access data, news, analytics, multimedia reports and e-mail on a single platform.
“We bring the power of that data to the audience who doesn’t have access to all of that data,” Mr. Kohn said. Keeping those viewers tuned in means providing them with information they need to do their jobs.
“Business news has been something of a backwater. We treat it like it is the most important subject,” Mr. Kohn said.
While some people may not be familiar with Bloomberg TV, Mr. Kohn said, it is a household name among the people who have the highest net worth. “Of course, we want greater brand awareness and to be more widely watched,” he said, “but we know who our audience is and we know who needs it. We are not going to change our presentation to capture more people.”
Backing up Mr. Kohn’s assertions is a Mendelsohn Affluent Survey from August that showed Bloomberg Television viewers have the highest average total assets and the highest average total real estate assets of any cable network measured. The network draws viewers with the highest average household income-about $180,000-than any other cable network, according to the survey.
The Mendelsohn survey is based on adult heads of household with household incomes of $85,000 or more.
Data from Nielsen Media Research, supplied by Bloomberg TV, shows the channel led competitor CNBC in household ratings in the first quarter of 2005 in the crucial weekday 5-8 a.m. slot by a substantial margin. Bloomberg averaged 58,000 households to CNBC’s 39,000.
While not commenting specifically on competition from other business channels, Mr. Kohn said his service emphasizes news and tries to avoid the banter that may be found on other channels.
“We don’t joke around,” he said. “There isn’t a lot of chatter, though people are friendly. What we emphasize is news judgment, and what we try to do every day is take the most important news and bring it to as wide an audience as possible. We try to get the most important voices to comment on those events.”
Bloomberg Television delivers its news in seven languages via 10 networks. In some countries it is perceived as the “home” news channel, Mr. Kohn said. When Bloomberg broadcasts in Brazil, for example, he said, it is bringing the story of Brazil and the world to Brazilians and giving them information they can’t get anywhere else.
Bloomberg’s brand of journalism is delivered 24/7 worldwide by more than 1,800 journalists in 125 bureaus.
“For an independent media company, it’s got a huge breadth to it,” said Brad Adgate, senior VP and corporate research director for Horizon Media. Bloomberg’s distribution includes a radio service, Bloomberg Markets Magazine and Bloomberg.com, one of the most heavily trafficked financial news Web sites.
“It’s got a really huge operation and it’s not a huge media conglomerate. It’s done a pretty remarkable job of surviving in this age of media consolidation,” Mr. Adgate said.
Using those resources has allowed the network recently to chronicle, for example, “the woes of General Motors,” Mr. Kohn said, more than any other network. “We have been able to show in print and on TV that here are the challenges facing the world’s largest automaker and here is what the world’s largest automaker is doing about them.”
Other recent stories included an investigative report on the darker side of human testing in the pharmaceutical industry and how municipalities are financed.
“We cover stories that aren’t obscure pieces of data,” Mr. Kohn said. “We tell critical stories about the businesses that are the biggest employers.”
Bloomberg TV has part-time distribution to 87 million households on E! Network, Monday through Friday from 5-8 a.m. and Saturday from 5:30-7 a.m. It also reaches 6.4 million households on CN8 Network (on Comcast) Monday through Friday from noon-1 p.m.
It has full-time distribution to 34 million households on the following cable operators: Adelphia, Armstrong, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox Communications, Insight Communications, Mediacom, Time Warner, RCN and the National Cable Television Cooperative. It’s also available on both DirecTV and DISH Network.
Getting the Word Out
“People who are familiar with the Bloomberg name are more likely to watch Bloomberg,” said Derek Baine, senior cable programming analyst with Kagan Research, a company that tracks financial statistics of cable networks.
Bloomberg generated about $41 million in ad revenue in 2004, an increase of 22 percent over the previous year, Mr. Baine estimated. “We’re expecting them to be up another 20 percent in 2005,” he said. “They’re still adding to their subscribers-the number of viewers is increasingly pretty dramatically.”
Mr. Baine said Bloomberg can expect 40 million subscribers by the end of 2005, an increase of 6 million from 2004.
The network’s upscale viewers shape its advertising strategy, Mr. Adgate said. “There are certain product categories that are very endemic to it,” he said. “They’re going after an audience that is not necessarily heavy viewers of television. It’s a concept sell.”
The network’s main advertisers are financial, communications and business-to-business companies and high-end luxury automakers. “We have the types of advertisers that need to get to the people who have the most at stake,” Mr. Kohn said.
As viewers become better educated, they will turn to Bloomberg TV, said Bloomberg spokeswoman Judith Czelusniak, who noted that economics/finance is one of the most popular college majors.
A wealthier America favors future growth and will result in increased distribution for Bloomberg TV, Mr. Kohn said. “It’s been an interesting ride,” he said, “and we’re excited. We see the demographics going our way as people become wealthier.”