Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hearing footsteps

We’re still weeks away from the dawn of the Fox Business Channel – spawn of the recent News Corporation acquisition of the Wall Street Journal [see Murdoch! Murdoch! Nightmare of Murdoch!], but the other leading business-related cable channels are already girding for battle in various ways.

CNBC, which has pretty much had the field more or less to itself after CNNfn shut down some years back, has been aggressively stepping up both its global presence (with business reports from Russia, Australia, Pakistan, India and, oh yes, China) and its promotional advertising. The ads, which rolled out maybe a month ago, tap business leaders from Robert Johnson to Barry Diller to Mel Karmazin to Julie Aigner-Clark, the inventor of Baby Einstein, for testimonials as to how they watch CNBC for their daily diet of business news – the better to shore up CNBC’s rep as a destination station. The standing tag line, spoken by the biz leaders: "I am American business ... I watch CNBC."

Changes in its programming lineup are also likely; such programs as "Fast Money," a lightning-round style economic debate program, and "Kudlow & Co.," a financial talk show helmed by economist and tireless right-wing apologist Lawrence Kudlow, will have their slots juggled, the better to stay fresh to viewers who might otherwise be tempted to jump to the Fox fledgling.

Even stodgy Bloomberg News, perhaps CNBC's closest rival, is getting into the transformation act. Bloomberg, which for years looked like it was broadcast from a two-bedroom apartment somewhere in Manhattan, recently unveiled a makeover, sporting new sets, a newsroom that actually looks like a newsroom, fresher onscreen graphics stuffed with content, and a world and national news report.

It’s all done in anticipation of the arrival of the Fox Business Channel, set to go on the air about Oct. 15. Why? It's just understood that the new 800-pound gorilla for business news will have a fat wallet, an Australian accent and all the resources of the Wall Street Journal at its disposal. The new kid on the block can be expected to raise everyone’s game; count on Rupert Murdoch's scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners style of business to be just as cutthroat in the world of buisness journalism. CNBC and Bloomberg aren’t waiting around. Stay tuned.

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