Have the reports from CNBC been especially glum lately? The network, once known as Bubble-Vision for its alleged touting of bull market views, has more recently been criticised for airing rumours and the analysis of short sellers. What’s turned the smiles into frowns?
Maybe it’s the fact that despite record viewership numbers, the network is preparing to slash 10 per cent of its budget, cutting everything from perks to personnel.
“Despite the yuks and the huge numbers, the network is now in the process of slashing as much as 10% from its budget. People at the network, says one staffer, are ‘scared s—less,'” the big coverstory in the latest issue of B&C says.
CNBC executives are now engaged in the messy business of trimming the network’s budget, part of a $500 million across-the-board slash at NBC Universal. In a memo to employees last October, NBCU President and CEO Jeff Zucker stipulated “reductions in promotional expenses; in discretionary spending, such as travel and entertainment and outside consultants; and in staffing costs.”
CNBC’s longform unit has already been downsized from 25 to about a dozen, a byproduct of cancelling the newsmagazine Business Nation last summer. The unit, which is headed by CBS News alum Josh Howard, last year brought CNBC the first Emmys in its history, including one for investigative reporting for a Business Nation segment on the prescription drug industry. But the topical nature of the newsmagazine made the show difficult to amortize with extended reruns.
Despite Wall Street’s nosedive, CNBC is on track to have another successful year. The network’s business-day block is currently up 66% this quarter compared to fourth quarter 2007. But first quarter 2009 could be a harbinger of tough times to come as financial services companies—CNBC’s bread-and-butter advertisers—are handing out pink slips like Halloween candy.
According to network president Mark Hoffman, CNBC has continued to book business in the fourth quarter, though it has also taken cancellations. “Next year is a little murkier,” he concedes. “We’re in uncharted waters. It’s been called a 100-year storm, and that feels accurate to me.”