Fox Busi­ness Net­work rides pol­i­tics and punch to cable rat­ings suc­cess

Chicago Sun-Times - - MONEY - Mike Snider @ mikesnider USA TO­DAY

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.

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