So far, financial news upstart Fox Business has had a hard time making inroads against CNBC. But with sentiment running high against the dominant network and its star entertainer Jim Cramer, the News Corp. (NWS) property may have its first chance at making inroads.
This morning’s comments from NBCU chief Jeff Zucker confirm that the network is concerned about the Jon Stewart effect. It’s not clear how concerned they are, but obviously they think this story is about more than two entertainers squaring off in public, or it wouldn’t have been worth Zucker’s time.
Coincidentally, MarketWatch media critic Jon Friedman discussed the issue in his latest column:
For several years, I’ve been writing columns — both pro and con — about CNBC. From that, I learned I can count on an outpouring of anti-CNBC mail from many readers/investors. They invariably bemoan CNBC’s show-biz mentality and its apparent strategy to dumb down the news so that it has some entertainment value to Main Street. It’s as if CNBC has concluded that its viewers aren’t interested in getting straight news.
What Stewart did so neatly was represent a group of disaffected viewers who are quite simply fed up with General Electric’s (GE) business-news outlet. They have become so averse to CNBC’s shrieking, preening, shouting, bickering, finger-pointing anchors, reporters and commentators that they may do the unthinkable: check out the competition.
It’s possible, but we think it’s still a very long shot. Rather than checking out the competition, the most likely decision is that they’ll stop watching cable financial news altogether.
For one thing, Bloomberg is (frankly) going to be too staid and boring to hold most people’s attention. They’re trying to change that up a bit, but it’ll be tough. As for Fox Biz, the network consists of much of what’s on CNBC — talking heads spouting stock picks and personal investment advice. But at this point it lacks the hard-punch breaking news style of CNBC, which is the main reason we still tune in to it, despite its flaws. If Fox stole some really ace reporters and proved itself to be a livelier source of Wall Street gossip, we’d tune in, but for now CNBC still owns that.
Again, we suspect all networks will suffer — not just from Jon Stewart, but also because business news alternates between boring and depressing these days, neither of which make particularly compelling viewing right now. That being said, we’d love to see CNBC’s competitors step up their game and take a legitimate swing at them. Now is definitely the moment.