FBN Course Correction?

Reuters’ Peter Lauria writes about an FBN memo which addresses something I’ve complained about before…though I’ve complained loudest about the political incursion on FNC’s Saturday “Business Block”.

Here’s a novel idea: Fox Business Network should focus on covering business news.

At least that’s what Kevin Magee, executive vice president of the News Corp-owned cable news network, is urging his staff to do.

Unhappy with Fox Business’ focus on politics, Magee fired off a memo to employees reminding them that the network was not created to be a light version of its sister Fox News Channel.

“I’ve been asked to remind you all again that they are separate channels and the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves,” Magee said in the memo dated Oct. 5, carrying the subject line “Fox News and Fox Business.”

Obvious Unanswered Question: Was this memo aimed at just Dayside or all of FBN? How, if at all, does this impact Napolitano, Bolling, and Dobbs’ programs as well as Cavuto’s and Asman’s?

I do have to ding Lauria on this point…

Fox Business’ audience could also benefit from gaining access to Wall Street Journal journalists, who have been under an exclusive contract with CNBC that expires next year.

If Lauria had been watching FBN a lot he should have noticed that WSJ writers have already been popping up more and more on FBN despite that exclusive contract with CNBC.

Related: Talking Biz News has numbers

26 Responses to “FBN Course Correction?”

  1. Josh Kaib Says:

    Dayside seems fairly biz-focused, at least during the “Fox Business” blocks. Varney’s show is a mixture, and it ought to be more focused on the opening bell and should begin at 9 instead of 9:20. Hell, move his show to 8-10 am and cut back Imus. FBN now does great coverage of the closing bell after reforming “Bulls and Bears” into “After the Bell.” Do the same for the open.

    As for primetime, Dobbs’ show is at least more biz-oriented than his CNN show was in its heyday. Personally I think FBN needs Cavuto and Asman to swap slots. Scoreboard isn’t a great program for primetime in my view.

    Less of a Biz focus for FBN probably has a lot to do with the high-profile elections and that political discussions appeal to a wider audience than business ones. Now that FBN is starting to challenge CNBC in one of two timeslots, they ought to boost the biz focus. For all we know, that was the plan all along. Once the WSJ-CNBC agreement is up, WSJ people will probably be on all the time. The network might even change names.

    On an unrelated note, does FBN have a solid plan for increasing carriage? Why not package FNC and FBN together in some way. I assume that’s how CNN got HLN to be carried so widely.

  2. imnotblue Says:

    Unhappy with Fox Business’ focus on politics, Magee fired off a memo to employees reminding them that the network was not created to be a light version of its sister Fox News Channel.

    I think the comment that Magee “fired off a memo” undercuts the “unbiased” approach of this article. The cliche “fired off” usually implies that the person writing did so in haste, usually after some specific incident. However, it seems unlikely that that was actually the case. Odds are, the phrase was used to imply immediacy and urgency, and that Magee thinks this is a major problem. But again, the actual quotes from the memo don’t seem to reflect that.

    Drumming up drama, where there only appears to be a slight re-focusing.

  3. wheresthebeef09 Says:

    A “slight” refocusing? Magee is telling FBN to cover MORE business and LESS politics – that’s a heck of a lot more than a “slight” refocusing.

  4. Been talking about FBN’s politics heavy coverage since the channel launched… Years later the man in charge finally got my memo, eh?

    I think everyone knows FBN’s main problem (besides pushing politics every chance they get) would be: Its only available on basic in NYC and the majority of consumers don’t have the 2nd highest or top package (hat tip to Shep) television subscription.

    Now, why would people on a ‘middle’ or lower tier pay more to watch politics on a biz channel? I mean, they can just tune in FNC, CNN, MSNBC and get all the political crap they want.

    As Starbroker will tell ya, FBN’s in the ‘black’ and will be making money soon. And while making money is important so is the ‘brand’ and FBN has no such thing.

    Lastly, FBN brought Imus in to increase carriage.. How’s that working for ya? Looks to me like it hurt worse than it helped and further diluted the floundering brand recognition. Now might be a good time to send Imus a memo and tell him to head home to the ranch and his checks will arrive via direct deposit.

  5. imnotblue Says:

    @ beef

    I don’t think so. The memo read (to me, at least) as a reminder… especially since the alleged scolding began with:

    “I’ve been asked to remind you all again…”

    That’s not “harsh” or “tough talk.” That’s more like an “oh, by the way” line.

  6. wheresthebeef09 Says:

    Actually it sounds like their employees are stupid, and don’t get the point that FBN is a business channel – hence the “remind you all AGAIN”

  7. Another mistake I think FBN made was: Not moving Cavuto/biz programming exclusively off FNC. I mean, anyone that watches 4pm can tell ya Cavuto begs almost daily for people to call their cable company.

    What’s the point of paying $5 – $10 more a month when Cavuto is already on FNC daily?

    I guarantee FNC wouldn’t take a ratings hit and might even improve with a different host in his spot.

    But, here we are YEARS later and FNC’s still giving the milk away for free.

  8. imnotblue Says:

    @ beef

    I suppose it has a lot to do with what you thought BEFORE you read this story…

    @ terance

    Cavuto wins his time slot handily in all categories. He reminds people daily to get FBN, but I’m not sure where you get “begging” from.

    And the strategy goes, if you like Cavuto’s program on FNC, and he tells you there are more like it on FBN, you’d be more inclined to try FBN. NewsCorp would be foolish to move Cavuto to one or the other exclusively.

  9. Here are a couple of things I noted in the article.

    First he starts off the memo with “I’ve been told” which I read as ‘Roger Ailes told me to say this’. This gives the memo much more impact and I expect you may see an uptick in the business output and less politics from the network in the coming months.

    Second the number of households covered by FNB is about 2/3rds of CNBC (58 million vs 90 million) but the ratings are not corresponding (about 70000 – 80,000 for FBN vs 200,000 – 260,000 for CNBC). Even if FNB were to match, or somewhat exceed, CNBC in the households reached it is unlikely they would equal CNBC’s ratings.

  10. ^”I’ve been told” should read “I’ve been asked” Sorry.

  11. ImNotBlue:

    Cavuto wins his time slot handily in all categories.

    Cavuto “winning’ is not up for debate. But, FNC has a core group that watch regardless so ‘forcing’ people to pay ‘more’ for their Cavuto-hookup seems like an opportunity missed.

    And the strategy goes, if you like Cavuto’s program on FNC, and he tells you there are more like it on FBN, you’d be more inclined to try FBN. NewsCorp would be foolish to move Cavuto to one or the other exclusively.

    Ah, so Cavuto doesn’t beg he just ‘tells you’ daily, eh? Maybe its me but he sounds more desperate with every subsequent plead.

    Speaking of ‘foolish’ I can think of a few things:

    1) Leaving Cavuto on FNC instead of leveraging his ‘fans’ to pay for FBN
    2) Bringing in Imus
    3) Selling biz news out the front door while pushing politics out the back
    4) Alexis Glick didn’t exactly have an impact
    5) High priced talent brought in but bringing little to no return

    Lets be honest here — Its obvious from the memo they want to curtail politics at this point in time. So, why did it take years to figure that out? If News Corp had any sense on this FBN venture they’d fire Magee.

    Finally, lets not kid ourselves, inserting politics at every opportunity WAS a mandate from the top. Just as getting rid of that ‘angle’ comes courtesy of this memo. Case in point: It was a concerted effort to push politics complete with teleprompter, chyrons and whole segments devoted to it.

    Its not as if the ‘politics’ just sorta creeped in. But, I think this memo is to quash any ad-libbing from the drones that’ve been ‘taught’ to talk politics on a biz channel from this point forward.

  12. hey here’s a novel approach: let the business channel cover business news..and well…fnc needs to start doing news period. FBN will not survive without programming political crap. It’s the only way fnc has survived..

  13. Yeah, that’s why they call themselves ‘the place for politics’.

    Oh…wait. Never mind.

  14. Ah, so Cavuto doesn’t beg he just ‘tells you’ daily, eh? Maybe its me but he sounds more desperate with every subsequent plead.

    I happened to catch Cavuto just the other day, right at the time when he was “begging.” To “beg” this particular time, he turned it over to one of his stage hands, who had “Demand it,” written in marker on his t-shirt.

    “Was that really the best you could do,” Cavuto asked.
    “Yup.” said the guy.
    “But I was gone for a while, and this was what you came up with? When did you do it?”
    “This morning.”

    That’s how the conversation went… with some laughter from off camera, of course. So if that’s “begging” to you, well then yes… it’s just you.

    Lets be honest here — Its obvious from the memo they want to curtail politics at this point in time. So, why did it take years to figure that out?

    As was pointed out earlier, the memo said, “…remind you all again…” so your thesis that they’re changing their plan “at this point in time,” is wrong.

    And let us also not forget that you’ve been railing against FBN since before it began. You have a something of a vested interest (or at least a persistent one) in seeing it fail, and pointing out any perceived short comings. Am I wrong?

    Personally, I thought it was foolish to start another business network, knowing that the market for such programming is so small. I think (and have said so since FBN was announced) that they should have started an FNC/Headline News type network, with more straight news, and no opinion programming. Use Shep, Wallace, and some of the morning/afternoon folks, and build the network to take over HLN’s audience. Do that, and within a few years I bet we would see FNC #1 and FNC-HLN #2, which would be very demoralizing to MSNBC and CNN.

    But, nobody asked me.

  15. Paging Starbroker…

  16. And let us also not forget that you’ve been railing against FBN since before it began. You have a something of a vested interest (or at least a persistent one) in seeing it fail, and pointing out any perceived short comings. Am I wrong?

    Yes, you’re wrong. Before it launched I was reading every article out there and had much anticipation. However, after watching it for a while and seeing more and more politics come into play; I became disenfranchised.

    ImNotBlue, I do like your idea of a NY1/HLN (pre-rebrand) style channel though. But, lets not forget — HLN’s ratings were real low before the Ken Jautz ‘prime’ re brand along with abandoning the ‘wheel’ format. Besides, I think a national channel ‘headline service’ has been superseded by twitter and the instant nature of news coming from every direction on the net.

    Mind you, I’m talking about 2011 and not 2007 when FBN launched.

  17. Everybody hates Wall Street, and you’ve got a “business network” extolling the virtues of all those sweethearts dodging taxes and regulation while they sit on their arses collecting bonuses instead of hiring people. Yeah, Ailes may finally have noticed the politics of it all wasn’t exactly going his way..

  18. starbroker Says:

    Terence– you are right. I would say they are in the black now and they were a year ahead of schedule in doing that. That’s important.

    Also, I disagree with you about IMUS. He did increase carriage. They increased it by 15 to 20 M homes. Even if you go by the lower figure– 15M homes would translate into 20+M a year in carriage fees. So bringing him on and paying them what they did…was a good move. Is it time to let him go? Probably…..but I’d have to see all the fine print in his contract. Might be best to just let him finish it out and then let him go.

    Alexis Glick– that was certainly a mistake.

    Politics…. pretty much all business and politics are intertwined

    Now you want to complain about the high priced talent not having any returns? How so? They are in the black. Lou Dobbs has beaten CNBC in the ratings at times.

    Put the blame where it belongs… they aren’t spending any money marketing the network. And I’ve long said they should use the weekends to promote FBN on FNC. They have shown some replays of STOSSEL but thats about it. What about the other programming on FBN? They could do “best ofs” with several of those shows ….letting viewers see what they are missing. Big difference seeing the best of Lou Dobbs show and seeing him interviewed by Bill O.

    And unless you go market the channel in all the major cities…people won’t find it. It may be on channel 219 in one major city on that digital cable and 266 on another etc.

    Cavuto’s FNC weekly show. I’ve long said, it would have been best to take that show off the air.

    They still haven’t done any major advertising for the network at all. Other than stuff on sister properties…its been pretty negligible. Discovery spent $10M back in January on OWN advertising… for Rosie’s show and the Oprah rehash stuff they are blowing another $15 million to promote it.

    It was NewsCorps stupidity to not promote FBN all over the place during the SB last year. Everyone knows about FNC. They should have had almost the entire host lineup in Dallas doing stories and having them air on FNC and FBN. Like I said, Cavuto should have had the interview with Obama. They blew that opportunity to put the network front and center.

    I said, they should have a bus tour and hit every major city etc. Telling people where to find them on the dial in that city etc. Many around here laughed….but of course what did FNC do for their 15th anniversary? They were in how many major cities? 5 or so…for a network that is number 1 by a huge margin.

    And of course…..like I have said… FNC will just use their leverage to keep increasing the fees on FBN.

    Mark Cuban talked about this in Multichannel News
    http://www.multichannel.com/article/474983-Live_Wire.php
    MC: I don’t think it’s the cost of sports that’s the issue.
    It’s providers having to take networks that are just placeholders. That’s a problem. So, I’ll pick on Viacom. You know, VH1 Classic. No one watches it! We can look at it and say in our coverage rating, we’re side by side or whatever, we kill ’em. Right? Fuel, the Fox network, same thing, Fuse, we kill ’em. It’s not like the [NCTC] is dying to take VH1 Classic. We’re being forced to. So while you can say the price of sports has gone too high, in reality what’s pushing those cable bills up are not just the networks that you don’t watch, but the networks that nobody watches. How many times has Discovery changed whatever Planet Green is right now? They’re all just placeholders. You know? BET Jazz becomes I don’t even know what.

  19. starbroker Says:

    Joe claimed: Everybody hates Wall Street>

    Yeah, the Flea Party members hate Wall Street. But who gives a rats ass about them?!

    People complain about niche networks but look at the Golf Channel. A sport for rich white older folks. Yet, look at its carriage fee not to mention the Golf Channel is the top or 2nd top in the CPM (ad rates).

    I love my tax shelters. Screw those who are protesting. They need to go get a job. And if they can’t find one, they should risk their own money to start a business. Then, they will switch from a FLEA PARTY member real quick…..

    There should be a TV network for those enduring the Obama times. BECAUSE IN CHAOS THERE IS OPPORTUNITY!!!

  20. Why should FNC turn into FBN on the weekend? I don’t give a crap about business news, especially a rightwing propaganda version of it, and I sure as hell don’t need it screwing up FNC weekends.

  21. Josh Kaib Says:

    Joe, I don’t think Roger Ailes cares if you watch. I would not be surprised if he reads these comments and makes decisions just to pi$$ off you and fritz.

  22. icemannyr Says:

    Most if not all of Eric Bolling’s FBN show is Obama bashing.
    He would have no show if there was just Business talk no politics in it.

  23. I watch FNC on the weekend, so I think Ailes may care.

    Ice is right about Follow The Money. I’ve watched a few times, and it’s almost all politics “Obama bad” ad nauseum. Useless.

  24. bushleaguer Says:

    icemannyr – I agree about Bolling. He is a capable host but I don’t see him drawing ratings in his time slot doing a straight business show. He used to do segments on corruption but they must not have done well in the ratings because they went away and he turned his focus on the “ground zero mosque” and other stuff. It’s become a show that doesn’t fit the “Follow The Money” title but I think there is room for more politics in prime time and coverage of the stock market and other business stories on the dayside.

  25. […] could be interpreted as the latest manifestation of FBN’s “course correction” away from politics and more towards Business News as Napolitano and Bolling are more well known for […]

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