News Corp. debuts its business channel Monday with the promise of demystifying a subject that easily overwhelms.
Fox wants to challenge the sophisticated approach to business news offered by CNBC, a division of General Electric's NBC network.
Walk into any stockbroker's office or trading floor and chances are high the popular CNBC is blaring. It targets an affluent audience, especially investors.
But Fox is ready to knock CNBC from that perch. Fox is presenting business simply enough for average Americans faced with increasingly complex decisions about their financial futures to understand — though not so simple that those knowledgeable about finance won't watch.
Fox has a History of Success
Critics are claiming that it can be done. They learned not to dismiss Fox after the launch of Fox News, a 24-hour cable channel that went on to crush rival CNN in the ratings.
Kevin Magee, the Fox News executive vice president in charge of the new business channel, refrains from being cocky.
"We're only in 30 million homes compared to CNBC's 90 million homes," Magee said. "So we're not expecting to take the ball away from them on Day 1, and I hope no one else is either."
He is keeping details about the channel under wraps, partly to build suspense and partly to keep competitors at bay.
"The team is ready," Magee said. "The excitement is building. The way you think of business is about to change."
Fox's Web site pledges the network will cut through jargon to speak to the average investor, echoing comments by owner Rupert Murdoch that the channel is for Main Street rather than Wall Street.
Chris Roush, a business journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said targeting middle America likely means coverage of such topics as how to save for retirement, how to get the lowest credit card rates, or when is the right time to buy a house.
Arcane language such as "steepness of the yield curve" won't come into play, according to the show's anchor Neal Cavuto.
"If you can't explain a stock or an investment principle in under a sentence to me, chances are you're not serving the audience. So clarity counts. Getting to the point counts. None of the on-the-one-hand, and on-the-other-hand stuff," Cavuto added.
Murdoch Becoming a Force in Business News
Murdoch recently agreed to shell out $5 billion for Dow Jones Co., owner of The Wall Street Journal, the venerable business publication that targets knowledgeable readers although it too has begun softening its approach by offering readers more self-help articles with its Personal Journal.
Media watchers said then that Murdoch aimed to become a force in business news by creating a cable channel for financial news. Coupled with resources of The Wall Street Journal, Fox could take on Bloomberg News.
Bloomberg, which offers the only other dedicated business television network, recently spruced up its shows, putting more anchors on TV and less scrolling data.
Still, Fox executives said there is still a vast untapped audience for business news.
"We believe there's an awful lot of people out there who like money and we're putting on a channel about money, and we think we're going to try to program to them in any way we can," according to Magee.
Fox Says it Will Bring Perspective
A widespread criticism about the Fox News Channel is that its coverage is sensational. Those involved in the business network seem to have that in mind and say they will guarantee perspective.
Take the corporate scandals of a few years ago.
"I counted nine or 10 companies that were brought up on improprieties or worse — many whose executives went to jail — but there are 9,000 or 10,000 publicly traded companies," Cavuto said. "Now I'm not saying the nine or 10 are saints. But I do remind my viewers the sins of the few do not equate to the activities of the many."
Fox claims to already have CNBC running scared. CNBC now calls itself "America's Business Channel."
CNBC President Mark Hoffman brushes aside questions about Fox to tout the merits of its own network. "CNBC is as strong as it's ever been and we're confident about the future," he said.
CNBC reaches 390 million households around the world and has personalities like Jim Cramer and Maria Bartiromo.
But Brad Adgate of media services agency Horizon Media cautions against betting against Murdoch.
"News Corp. is a very, very successful organization," Adgate said. "They have been very patient. If you look at Rupert Murdoch's track record with Fox News, it took a few years for them to become the top rated cable news network."
From NPR reports and The Associated Press