In Depth: Ailes & Co. review FBN…
Last week, according to sources, Roger Ailes and FBN’s senior and executive producers all convened in a room to watch the network’s broadcast. The purpose of this gathering? To examine the programming in detail and see what was working and what might need changing or tweaking.
Given the cancellation of Fox Business Morning, Happy Hour, the cancellation of the short lived Imus in the Evening, the canceled but not yet off the air Your Questions, Your Money, the recent news of new weekday shows for Eric Bolling and possibly Geri Willis, and Andrew Napolitano’s new weekend show (I hear there’s a possibility that as many as three new weekend programs may launch), news of an in depth review of the network’s broadcast further drives home the point that FBN is in a transitional/transformational period.
Some will no doubt immediately leap to the conclusion that this is a clear sign that the network is in trouble as it makes some pretty serious changes to its programming. I’m not convinced that this is automatically a given. First of all, any network worth its salt is going to have reviews of some sort, though the sort of meeting described in the first paragraph sounds atypical. Second, some of the FBN cancellations appear to be cost related, at least in part. Your Questions, Your Money in particular was expensive to produce given that the technical staff were all weekday workers doing voluntary overtime, which costs a lot more. Third, internally, morale is good at the network. Morale is never good at a network that’s in trouble.
A fourth point, which is often ignored or downplayed by critics, is that FBN’s clock is not yet ticking at News Corp. and won’t be for another two years at least. The reason? CNBC’s deal with Dow Jones. It’s become increasingly clear to me that FBN is in something of a holding albeit evolving pattern that will continue until FBN can finally get its hands on Dow Jones. Everything that transpires regarding FBN before that moment is merely an attempt to put the proper framework in place so that when FBN does have full unfettered access to Dow Jones it will be in the best position possible to take advantage of the situation. Regardless of how the critics and outsiders judge FBN now, News Corp. will remain unfazed until FBN can tap in to Dow Jones. Only at that point, when FBN is considered a complete entity by News Corp., will it really start judging the network on a success/failure basis. That’s also when the real fight with CNBC begins. I’m not sure that’s a nuance that CNBC, and by extension NBC Universal, fully comprehends. They may think that after nearly three years of FBN not doing much damage, the fight’s over. It’s not.
There are two FBN clocks really; the one that FBN’s critics and media writers use and the one that News Corp. uses. While some have no doubt started the first clock, ultimately only the second clock matters and it’s not ticking. In fact it’s not even being wound yet.
There are only two thing I think we can take with any certainty to the bank:
1) Roger Ailes will never rest on complacency – This has been demonstrated over and over again on FNC as we’ve seen changes over the years – not all of which met with fan approval as long time favorites departed the network – if Ailes thought the network could do better than it was. And, more often than not, Ailes was shown to be right. It was inevitable that Ailes’ determined perseverance would manifest itself at FBN and it started with the hiring of Imus (not a move I welcomed with open arms to be sure), and the subsequent changes to the dayside lineup and talent earlier this year.
2) The changes at FBN probably aren’t over.
Update: A tipster says this wasn’t the first time a meeting like last week’s has occurred but they definitely aren’t the norm.