Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Snap Judgement: Fox Business Network

Once upon a time I used to sit in an office and buy and sell stock. And by buy and sell stock, I mean watch CNBC all day. Not because I liked it, but because it was on, blaring down upon me from multiple ceiling hung TVs every second that I was at work.

Not that I didn't like CNBC. In fact, over time, their cast of characters became like my co-workers. Joe Kernen was always telling me what he did over the weekend -- although it didn't bother me because he was a pretty entertaining guy. Mark Haines, he was jolly. And David Faber, maybe a little too much of a know it all, but "the brain" didn't seem to mind when I turned away from his latest hard-hitting investigation to play freecell on my computer.

It was a special treat when Kudlow and Kramer stopped by, especially if the Fed had done something to get them riled up. Then there was Maria Bartiromo, aka the "Money Honey." I thought she looked like a goblin, and would loudly express this critique anytime she popped onto the screen. "No she is hot," my real-life co-workers would protest, from all corners of the room. "If you like goblins," I would respond. That exchange never got old.

I say all this because earlier today I checked out the brand new Fox Business Network, which has set its sights squarely on CNBC. I watched for an hour and that was enough to confirm they did things like have a crawl with stock symbols on it, cover the opening bell, talk about stocks, sprinkle in some jokes and light banter, feature a female reporter who wouldn't look out of place in soft-core porn, and interview "experts" who made rough prognostications on general market trends. Just like CNBC would.

Imitation is a good start. Fox News was able to quickly distinguish itself and eventually come to dominate the small pie that is cable news by offering a different political perspective. There is no such magic bullet in the minuscule (a few hundred thousand, tops) pie that is financial news. Here it is bears vs. bulls and, at least in the long run, most are bulls.

From what I've read, FBN is taking a more "main street" approach than CNBC does. That is they are targeting regular investors, not just Wall Street grunts. It could have been a function of this particular morning's market, but I did notice a high percentage of easy to understand phrases such as "Yahoo," and "IBM" and "Warren Buffet" being tossed about.

But for legitimacy and optimal audience FBN is also going to need to capture the attention of the pros.

Actually, the reason I watched CNBC everyday at work was because I couldn't easily reach the TV and had no idea where the remote control was. Even if I were able to, switching the channel would put my section out of sync with the other sections in our office.

To be successful FBN is going to have to have a lot folks find the remote or stand on their tip-toes. It's a difficult task, because people are lazy and can become quite attached to their daily squawkers.

But given the money, time and avenues for promotion and partnership -- the Wall Street Journal, for example -- Murdoch, Ailes and co. have, I would be as reluctant to pick against the long term prospects of FBN as I would the stock market.

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