Maria Bartiromo, the fire-breathing Dragon Lady of business and economic news, premiered this morning on the Fox Business Network. From her former post on CNBC, Bartiromo encapsulated the day’s economic news on Closing Bell with an authority befitting a queen. Bringing Bartiromo on board with Fox was quite a coup for FBN.
Aside from the experience she brings, Bartiromo brings a loyal audience and a network of global business connections that a Secretary of State would envy. On her first broadcast this morning, the reporter broke the story of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s investment bets on American technology companies like Twitter, Square and AOL.
Damned with faint praise, perhaps, but the tough “Money Honey” Brooklyn babe is not to be underestimated-not face to face anyway. She deftly manages interviews that would have other reporters slavishly repeating what they have been told by powerful financial brokers.
While the audience for business news has declined, Bartiromo’s hiring has gone for the weak spot on CNBC’s channel lineup. CNBC’s Squaw Box leads off the morning with business network stars like Becky Quick, Joe Kernan, and Andrew Sorkin. It is one of the most successful business shows on television, occupying a political space neither right nor left, and aiming for the middle.
The raggedly coiffed Kernan has a conservative drift as much as the newer Sorkin leans lib, but the political distinctions are not sharply drawn. Becky Quick, the female who seems like that smart girl you were too intimidated to ask out in high school, provides keen insights and keeps the boys from fighting. It works – CNBC still leads the trio of business news networks. But Squawk Box goes off the air as Bartiromo begins the 9:00 a.m. pre-market opening slot. on FBN.
Nine o’clock is when Jim Cramer comes on CNBC with Mark Faber to handicap individual stocks. Cramer has his loyal followers but also his critics. While Faber is stolid and reliable, Cramer’s voice has been compared to the sound of a teacher rubbing fingernails on a blackboard to get the class’s attention. Cramer may be able to pick stocks but not everyone wants to “booyah” with him.
Bloomberg News doesn’t figure into the ratings race equation because it occupies only 10 percent of the market in spite of its near twenty year existence. Moreover, it pays cable networks to distribute its programming, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Clearly, Fox Business Network execs have a great deal of confidence in Bartiromo to draw eyeballs away from CNBC and Bloomberg News and to FBN. While overall audiences have declined on all three business news networks last year, Fox Business Network did mange to grab an impressive 25 percent of the business news market in a surprisingly short time. The hiring of Bartiromo proves that FBN execs are charging full speed ahead to chip away at the competition-mainly CNBC.
The business channels may not be as popular as “Breaking Bad” but, let’s face it, business shows are where the money is. The audience decline is inevitable in a technology world where equity prices and other financial data can be obtained from sites like Yahoo Finance.
Data points, however, are not always the point. Investors who watch Bartiromo get a business news commentators who provides interesting interviews, and a balanced point of view.