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Ticker embedded in news

Watchers of cable news networks have become accustomed to the headline crawl as a permanent fixture. As breaking stories wane, though, the crawl is changing.

CNN recently spruced up its ticker, adding moving graphics and dividing headlines into subjects, such as Health and Breaking News. "Organization and focus was the goal," said CNN Excutive Vice President and General Manager Teya Ryan. "The ticker is about adding news value."

MSNBC dropped the ticker from prime time on July 15, the day it launched its new evening talk block headlined by Phil Donahue. "There are no breaking-news developments of the nature to justify the crawl," said a spokeswoman. Instead, MSNBC gives live news updates every 30 minutes. If big news breaks, the ticker could easily return.

Top-rated Fox News, however, isn't changing a thing. Its crawl still runs most of the day.

The ticker has become part of news-viewing habits, says Kathryn Thomas, associate director for media firm Bcom3's Starcom Entertainment. "It's a nice way to digest news bits and feel like you're in the know."

News crawls popped up on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Headline News and most broadcast nets on Sept. 11. The ticker was not a radical new element; Bloomberg News and Headline News had been running a news stream for years.

Entertainment networks have caught the ticker bug, too. E!, VH1 and Oxygen use the crawl to hype upcoming shows or give extra information on a program.

Headline News Executive Vice President and General Manager Rolando Santos remembers removing a ticker in the early '90s because viewers hated it. Then, strangely, the finicky viewers wanted it back. "Everything takes time to get used to," he said. "We get very few complaints about the ticker these days."