Fox Biz Net Has Flashy First Week

Oct 21, 2007  •  Post A Comment

By stretching the definition of business and financial news well beyond CNBC’s narrower business-day focus, Fox Business Network in its maiden week often appeared to be competing more with sister Fox News Channel than with CNBC or Bloomberg News.
Throughout much of FBN’s first telecast days last week, stock market and earnings news seemed almost like interstitial elements used to set up lively discussions with a family of contributor analysts already largely familiar to Fox News Channel audiences or to bracket segments that could appear on almost any news channel or feature-heavy program.
At one point Friday afternoon, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 200 points (ultimately landing 366 points down) and the Fox 50 average of well-known brands’ stock prices also was trending down, FBN went live to former New York Yankees manager Joe Torres’ press conference about why he rejected the Yankees’ contract offer, labeling it a live “Business Alert” and following it up with a discussion of the Torre move with a panel of financial analysts.
Nowhere did the range of guests and topics get broader than on “Happy Hour,” the post-market show set in an apparently crowded bar, co-hosted by the long-haired Cody Willard and the clingily clad Rebecca Gomez. On Monday, when many viewers in New York did not get sound for much of the opening “Happy Hour,” Ivanka Trump showed off her new jewelry collection.
Later in the week, Mr. Willard got a crash course in wines and cheese and the co-hosts welcomed Jerry Springer.
Segments and guests don’t come more accessible than Mr. Springer, who was introduced with clips from his rowdy talk show.
On the fourth day, Fox Business Network unveiled perhaps its biggest “get”: former CNBC star Liz Claman, who brought with her Warren Buffett to do something he’d never done: sit for a live, hourlong TV interview.
Ms. Claman, fresh off a 90-day noncompete period after ending her tenure at CNBC in July, will preside over the 2-5 p.m. weekday block with Fox veteran anchor David Asman starting today.
Late Tuesday afternoon, vitriolic frequent Fox News visitor Ann Coulter appeared on FBN without an opposing guest voice to talk about campaign finance and make a characteristic reference to “idiot liberals”; she also corrected anchor Cheryl Casone on how many best-sellers she had written.
Later in the week, Mr. Asman, who sometimes seemed to be working up to full Bill O’Reilly finger-pointing, disagreement-squelching mode, would say during a discussion of the children’s health-care funding bill vetoed by President Bush: “I have never in my life seen any fiscal responsibility emanating from inside the Beltway.”
That, along with many other moments from the first week, would not have been out of place or character on Fox News Channel.
Joe Peyronnin, who was a Fox News executive in between his years at CBS News and Telemundo, said he sent a congratulatory note to Roger Ailes, the Fox News chairman who launched the business network and once ran its primary competitor, CNBC.
“He has pretty much done what he set out to do: Differentiate Fox Business Network from CNBC and make business coverage more accessible to regular people,” Mr. Peyronnin said.
Mr. Peyronnin believes the race for viewers largely will depend on how many new business viewers check out FBN and like what they see. “My guess is that incremental business viewers (especially away from Wall Street) are more likely to stick with FBN and the business viewers who have Bloomberg/Reuters terminals on their desks probably will prefer CNBC,” he said.
Robert Thompson, the Syracuse University professor of popular culture and tireless TV watcher, thinks there would be great value in making business news more accessible by “intelligently dumbing it down.”
“There’s the good news and the bad news about trying to sell financial news to an audience” not used to watching it, Prof. Thompson said. “The good news is that everybody’s interested in money. It’s relevant to everybody. The bad news is that the economy is such a complex, sophisticated thing that somehow translating what is going on in the world of money into their particular interest can be really difficult.”
However, Prof. Thompson said, “As citizens of an intensely market-based capitalistic economy, for us to be informed, intelligent citizens, we need to understand the [economic basics] of it.
“I think business and the economy are undercovered in our regular news,” he added. “I think there is really an opportunity for a business channel to take the idea of business, finance and the economy and to try to make it something that is entertaining for regular people to watch.
That may mean a lot of pandering with some really user-friendly types of feature stories and all the rest of it. It also could be a really important service, because if we could start getting people to follow and be able to understand the economy with the sophistication that they understand sports, that would be a good thing.”


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