Murdoch Gives Fox the Business

When Rupert Murdoch announced last Tuesday that his long-discussed business-news channel would launch next summer, that was news even at News Corp.

Attendees at Fox Entertainment’s annual shareholder meeting certainly didn’t know that the company chairman was planning to have a new channel up and running so quickly—and neither did Fox News executives.

You could almost see them lunging for their planners to calculate how many hours they've got to conjure a channel from scratch. Although the idea has been gestating for three years, Fox News hadn’t even reached the point where it had a business plan for the venture. No budgets, no strategy to persuade cable operators to carry the channel, no new on-air talent.

About all anyone knew for certain was that Fox News’ lead business anchor, Neil Cavuto, would play a big role. These are all things that executives tend to like to have nailed down before announcing new channels.

Fox Business News will take direct aim at CNBC, which used to be run by Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. He knows a bit about rushing a channel into existence. Eight years ago he got Fox News Channel on the air just five months after drafting a business plan. But expectations at the time were low.

“Expectations for the business channel will be the exact opposite,” says one News Corp. executive. “It will be expected to be a roaring success out of the gate.” That might be tough, given that Time Warner’s CNN is shutting down its CNNfn operation in December. “God bless them,” says one Time Warner exec. “But if the leader in the market [CNBC] is getting a 0.1 rating, how much can a new entrant expect?”