February 26, 2021

Market Ills Give CNBC a Bounce

Having left The Journal in 2010 for CNBC, Mr. Deogun is now in charge of the network’s coverage of the gyrating global markets, a fresh crisis that has restored CNBC to prominence among retail investors who temporarily tune into business news in turbulent times.

This time, however, there is stiffer competition from the Fox Business Network and Bloomberg Television, both of which are hoping to take advantage of what they perceive as CNBC’s vulnerabilities.

The markets’ wild swings are not necessarily profit-generating for TV news outlets because most advertisers buy airtime far in advance, meaning that the prices do not rise in tandem with the ratings. But coverage of crises can burnish reputations, as the networks attract worried viewers who sample news and stock-picking shows for the first time — or at least for the first time in a long while.

So far, CNBC — not its smaller rivals — seems to be benefiting the most from interest this month in the last-minute agreement on the United States debt ceiling, the Standard Poor’s downgrade of America’s debt rating and concern over the stability of European banks.

Through the first two weeks of August, CNBC, a unit of NBC Universal, had on average 378,000 at-home viewers during the New York market hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., up sharply from 224,000 in July.

Fox Business, a unit of the News Corporation, had an average of 107,000 viewers at those hours, up from 76,000 in July. Bloomberg Television is not publicly rated; private ratings indicate that it too had a surge in recent weeks, though its audience is smaller than that of Fox Business.

It is exceedingly hard to estimate the reach of the business networks. CNBC, despite being dominant, flatly declines to talk about ratings because it says Nielsen’s sample does not count out-of-home viewing or affluent viewers, exactly the kinds of viewers it says it attracts.

The Nielsen ratings nonetheless serve as a barometer of sorts in good business times and bad. CNBC’s at-home audience has not been this big since the so-called flash crash of May 2010, reaffirming that people are once again paying attention to the ups and downs of the markets.

Kevin Magee, the executive in charge of the Fox Business Network, said that periods of big financial news usually helped “the new guy.” Fox Business started in October 2007, and Mr. Magee is quick to point out that CNBC has both a 20-year head start and enviable distribution. (CNBC is available in about 100 million households, while Fox Business is in about 57 million.)

Still, he said that once viewers found his network, “they have a tendency to stay with us after that.”

Fox Business broke even for the first time in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

“It’s a better channel today than it was 12 months ago,” the News Corporation chief operating officer, Chase Carey, said on a conference call with reporters last week. Among other changes, it has added a program featuring Lou Dobbs at 7 p.m. and a libertarian-oriented talk show, “Freedom Watch,” at 8. Those two hours occasionally outperform CNBC, but during market hours, CNBC is always on top.

Some at CNBC have said they regard Fox Business as another political flavor of Fox News, though Mr. Magee said that notion “has no credibility in the industry other than in the hallways of Englewood Cliffs,” the New Jersey town where CNBC is based.

Nielsen data shows 81 percent of Fox Business viewers also watch Fox News, while 31 percent of CNBC viewers also watch Fox News.

Of course, as the third-biggest channel on all of cable, Fox News is an asset for its little brother — which is why it simulcast Fox Business for two hours on Aug. 7.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=45daf4a455c96225a6264d65e7a560eb

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