Fox Business Network rides politics and punch to cable ratings success
Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney had covered a lot of ground about halfway through his threehour show on Tuesday.
He talked with Hall of Famer Joe Namath about NFL players’ national anthem protests, conferred with Newt Gingrich about the former House speaker’s new book, a thriller titled Vengeance, the unlikelihood of tax reform and likelihood of tax cuts and President Trump’s mistake in getting in a Twitter war with Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn.
During commercial breaks, Varney reads through the teleprompter script. An upcoming spot about ESPN’s suspension of host Jemele Hill is convoluted, he says. “Rewrite it,” Varney commands. Another segment needs to get to the point more quickly. “Bang, hit it hard.”
“I should calm down, but first let me have more coffee,” Varney jokes.
The daily grind certainly isn’t bitter at Fox Business Network these days.
The network, which celebrates its 10th anniversary next week, touts robust Nielsen data showing it has won the business daytime slot — from the time the stock market opens at 9: 30 until 5 p. m. ET ( an hour after its close) — beating CNBC over the last four quarters. It has done it amid the ascension of Donald Trump into the White House and the distraction of sexual harassment scandals that reached the highest levels of Fox, which continues to deal with legal complaints about harassment and discrimination.
CNBC counters that it still wins across the 24- hour viewing period, the 6 a. m. to 11 p. m. segment and the 8 p. m to 11 p. m. period. And it also notes Nielsen does not capture out- of- home viewers — the financial firms and Wall Street offices that play CNBC through the business day.
But there’s no denying Fox Business Network is on the rise, says Chris Roush, professor of business journalism at the University of North Carolina.
That could be, in part, because FBN is drafting on the success of conservativefriendly Fox News. Fox Business mixes more politics into its coverage than does CNBC, Roush said.
“Given that the world has become much more political, it’s probably why its viewership has risen so much,” he said. “The more you have stories around Trump, the better your ratings.”
Viewership of business networks may represent a slice of the overall TV viewing audience, but business news channels draw about $ 1 billion in annual ad revenue, according to Kagan, a media research group within S& P Global Market Intelligence.
“The ratings are important because we are a business, like any other cable network or broadcast network,” said Brian Jones, president of Fox Business Network. “The fact is we are growing, and we are beating CNBC because we deliver a superior product, and we deliver a product that people need at a very, very important time.”
More than a decade after launching Fox News Channel, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and Fox News CEO Roger Ailes flipped the switch on the business news network.
In its early days, there was plenty to cover — a troubled housing market begat the subprime mortgage crisis. Then came bailouts of the banking and auto industries and the Great Recession. “Talk about an auspicious beginning,” said anchor Neil Cavuto, 59, who as senior vice president and managing editor oversaw business news coverage on Fox News before FBN’s launch.
Murdoch and Ailes bought into the idea of a network tackling business news differently, and the immediate financial crisis “reminded people there’s something bigger than stocks.
“There’s people’s homes,” said Cavuto, who migrated from CNBC in 1996.
“I felt that we just had to make this about average folks.”
Stuart Varney, who has been with Fox News since 2004, hosts Varney & Co. weekdays at 9 a. m. ET on FBN.