The stunning departure of Cable News Network Moneyline
News Hour anchor Lou Dobbs has sparked a major counterattack by its competitor, CNBC.
Bruno Cohen, senior vice president of CNBC Business News,
said last week that Business Center, which had aired from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.,
would expand to a full hour -- starting a half-hour earlier, at 6:30 -- to compete head-on
with Moneyline for the full hour, starting today (June 21).
The show offers breaking business news, interviews with
industry leaders, analysis and roundtables.
Cohen also said Maria Bartiromo -- dubbed the "Money
Honey" by the tabloids -- would step down from her anchor slot on Business Center,
replaced by the duo of Ron Insana and Sue Herera.
At the same time, CNBC said it signed the 31-year-old
Bartiromo to a long-term deal, and she will co-produce a new weekly program that will air
live on the back half of Business Center on Fridays, repeating throughout the
Bartiromo was on her honeymoon last week when Cohen
announced the changes.
Cohen indicated that the moves were largely driven by a
desire to prevent Bartiromo from burning out. Her other duties beyond Business Center
include early morning stock reports from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Cohen quelled speculation that the move was a demotion for
Bartiromo. "This is an enhancement of Maria's role. We're up against the
law of physics. We can't keep having Maria run her schedule the way she has," he
"She's one of our top journalists," Cohen
added. "She'll now get more airtime, and the time periods she's moving into
are highly rated. And we're giving her a new show."
Business Center, which launched in 1997, has struggled
to dent Dobbs' stranglehold on cable business news, both in terms of ratings, as well
as advertising rates. With the void left by Dobbs, CNBC hopes to strike while the iron is
Meanwhile, CNN tried to regroup and minimize the fallout
from Dobbs' exit. It was announced that an internal search committee had been formed
to find Dobbs' on-air successor.
The man leading the search, Jeff Gralnick, executive vice
president of CNN Financial News and executive in charge of Moneyline, reacted
strongly to the CNBC changes.
"They can do whatever they want to do. They sense an
opportunity, but we sense that there isn't one," Gralnick said.
"They'll probably promote the hell out of it and get a slight bump. But in a
month, I expect the numbers to be consistent with what we've seen, which is that
we're two-and-a-half to three times ahead."
Gralnick declined to identify the list of candidates to
replace Dobbs. Speculation has run the gamut from CNN NewsStand anchor Willow Bay,
who is hosting Moneyline on an interim basis, to CNNfn anchor Tony Guida.
Madison Avenue took a wait-and-see attitude.
"Everyone's jockeying for position," said Bob Igiel, president of broadcast
at The Media Edge, a leading media-buying unit of Young & Rubicam.
"While I have no doubt that [CNN] will spring back in
short order, nevertheless, you have to admit that the competition sees an opportunity.
Herera and Insana are both professional, and we'll have to see how the audience
accepts them," Igiel added.
Meanwhile, Dobbs and his former employer got caught up last
week in some postpartum name-calling, according to published reports.
Dobbs -- who hosted Moneyline and who was the top
executive at CNNfn -- is launching a new Internet venture called Space.com.
Anonymous Time Warner Inc. sources, acknowledging
Dobbs' contributions to CNN's business coverage and his stature and
relationships within the business world, nevertheless expressed relief to have gotten
Dobbs out of their hair. Sources said CNN brass was unhappy about Dobbs' insistence
on taking a large stake in Space.com while remaining at CNN.
Time Warner vice chairman Ted Turner, in typical
shoot-from-the-hip manner, weighed in on the Dobbs situation at the National Show last
"The world got along without John F. Kennedy and Jesus
Christ -- we'll get along without Lou Dobbs." Turner said. "CBS got along
without Walter Cronkite [as its evening-news anchor]. We're sorry to see Lou go, but
maybe he has been around too many billionaires and he wants to be one, too. I can't
blame him for that."
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