By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Fox News executives knew it would be a long, uphill battle to challenge CNBC when they launched a new business channel last October -- and new ratings confirm that they are right.
For the first three weeks of July, according to Nielsen figures obtained yesterday that have not been publicly released, Fox Business Network is averaging just 8,000 viewers during daytime hours, and 20,000 in prime time.
CNBC, by contrast, is drawing an average of 284,000 viewers during the day and 191,000 in prime time.
The Fox numbers are a modest improvement over the ratings that leaked late last fall, which had the network averaging 6,000 daytime viewers and 15,000 at night.
While the overall showing is anemic, given the ballyhooed launch, Fox executives say they are not surprised. "It's a slow-growing business, but it is a growing business," said Executive Vice President Kevin Magee. "I don't think anybody here expected us to be on top by the first summer, and we're not." Anyone who believed otherwise, he said, is "probably delusional."
Fox Business is in 40 million homes, compared with more than 90 million for the two-decade-old CNBC, and except in Manhattan it is in the digital tier of cable and satellite systems, which usually requires additional fees from subscribers.
Accentuating the positive, Fox executives say they are encouraged by luring anchor Liz Claman from CNBC and tapping Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walt Mossberg for regular appearances. The Journal, like Fox, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, but Journal financial reporters can make regular appearances only on CNBC, under a contract that runs through 2012.
Whatever the glimmers of progress -- Fox Business is now simulcast on XM Satellite Radio, while CNBC is on both XM and Sirius Satellite Radio -- television is ruled by cold, hard ratings, and the competitive gap remains enormous.
"Our numbers are nothing to crow about yet," Magee said.