Energized Fox Business Aims High in 2018

A decade since it launched, Fox Business Network concluded 2017 with notable momentum. Enjoying a bump in the ratings thanks to our current White House resident, and riding well-established anchors such as Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs to further Nielsen gains, the network finished the year with an average of 195,000 total viewers during the business day, a 27% gain over the previous year, and better than CNBC’s 166,000. It represented Fox Business’s first-ever yearly win.

But CNBC is hardly down for the count. The NBCUniversal network averaged 30,000 viewers 25-54, the key advertising demographic, in 2017 business day, ahead of Fox Business Network’s 25,000, per Nielsen.

Yet Fox Business Network’s growth, including a 14% gain in viewers 25-54, is noteworthy. Network president Brian Jones cited the big-name talent, which also includes Neil Cavuto, for pacing Fox Business. “When you have a lineup like that,” he said, “viewers are going to come.”

He also believes the rapport between Fox Business talent sets them apart from the competition. “Our people actually like each other,” said Jones. “There’s a sense of team we have, where we’re all rolling in the same direction.”

Politics and Portfolios

Fox Business Network has gained viewers by deftly mixing politics into its programming mix, said Chris Roush, professor of business journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism. “Fox Business Network covers much more the political aspect of business news than CNBC does,” he said. “CNBC is much more still a hardcore business-news network.”

Roush noted that CNBC is getting more politically engaged, including relocating anchor Kayla Tausche from New York to Washington to cover the White House.

Paul Hardart, clinical professor of marketing at the Leonard H. Stern School of Business at New York University, mentioned a “more populist” approach by Fox Business Network, while CNBC continues to broadcast to its affluent, well-educated investor base. (Fox Business Network pointed out that it ranked second among networks in median household income, according to the Ipsos Affluent Survey in the fall, behind Tennis Channel, with CNBC two spots behind Fox Business.) 

“Fox Business Network does seem to be talking up more of the political spectrum than CNBC,” Hardart said.

All the key issues kicking around Washington, whether it’s Congress rethinking Obamacare or the GOP’s new tax plan overhaul, are at their core financial issues, according to Jones. “People have a higher interest in financial news” as a result, he added.

Marianne Gambelli, president of advertising sales at Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, sounded a similar note when discussing the business news battle with Multichannel News last week. “Where CNBC is very much about the trader or around the stock market, I think our financial news is more accessible to the average American,” she said, “and how policy and all the changes going on in Washington affect your financial picture.”

Nielsen a No Go

CNBC has for years taken issue with Nielsen, saying the ratings giant does not properly measure daytime viewers, as Nielsen measures in-home viewing, not viewing in offices and hotel rooms. Early in 2015, CNBC partnered with Cogent Reports to provide “targeted consumption metrics” for the network’s business-day audience, which watches between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The battle between CNBC and Fox Business Network will ultimately be won by the network that wins the digital race, Hardart said. “You have to be where the consumer is,” he said, “and the consumer is wherever their phone is.”

Hardart said he suspects CNBC “may have a leg up” in that race.

Kagan had CNBC pulling in around $772 million in ad revenue last year, ahead of Fox Business’s $285 million.

Top-viewed series on Fox Business include Cavuto Coast to Coast at noon, Intelligence Report With Trish Regan at 2 p.m., Countdown to Closing Bell With Liz Claman at 3 p.m. and Lou Dobbs Tonight, which airs at 7 p.m.

CNBC’s originals include Squawk Box at 6 a.m., Closing Bell at 3 p.m. and primetime offerings such as Shark Tank and Jay Leno’s Garage.

Jones suggested a steady course for Fox Business in 2018. “We’re always looking at new opportunities,” he said. “We’re always looking to adjust to changing viewership.”

While Fox Business Network still has bigger hurdles to transcend in the business network battle, Jones said the channel will use 2017’s gains as a jumping off point. “This company doesn’t get into any business to be No. 2,” he said.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.