MEDIA: Moneyline - now head-to-head against Business Center. After the loss of anchor and CNNfn president Lou Dobbs, Moneyline News Hour struggles back up the mountain of end-of-day market-analysis shows

After a year of bitter recriminations, departures and a protracted search for a new president, CNNfn, home of Moneyline News Hour, finally had some good news to announce.

After a year of bitter recriminations, departures and a protracted search for a new president, CNNfn, home of Moneyline News Hour, finally had some good news to announce.

After a year of bitter recriminations, departures and a protracted

search for a new president, CNNfn, home of Moneyline News Hour, finally

had some good news to announce.

The financial news network got the go-ahead from parent Time Warner to

extend its broadcasting day from 18 to 24 hours. The increased hours are

intended to help the channel become more attractive to cable operators -

even some Time Warner-owned systems don’t carry it.

Despite the changes, CNNfn is viewed by the PR community and the media

at large as something of a minnow. Moneyline is one of a number of

financial programs to air simultaneously on CNN and CNNfn. But one PR

pro, who did not want to be named, said, ’Go to any brokerage firm and

they’re watching CNBC, not CNNfn.’

The channel, based in a building behind New York’s Madison Square

Garden, has certainly had a rough time of it. Even Ted Turner, when

asked by the CNNfn staff whether the channel would gain wide

distribution, is quoted as having said, ’Not in my lifetime.’

Life without Dobbs

When Lou Dobbs quit in July of last year, not only was Moneyline left

without an anchor, but CNNfn was left without a president. Seizing on

the period of instability, CNBC management put its rival in the cross

hairs, moving its own end-of-day market-analysis show, Business Center,

directly opposite Moneyline in the 6:30-to-7:30 pm Eastern time


Moneyline is now coanchored by Stuart Varney, an 18-year CNN veteran,

and Willow Bay, a former anchor on ABC’s Good Morning


But as The New York Times reported this month, CNNfn’s flagship show has

been sinking. Moneyline has seen household erosion of 25% over the past

year. The show fell from 366,000 households in the second quarter of

1999 to 273,000 households in the first quarter of 2000. Rival Business

Center, anchored by Ron Insana, rose 21% from 238,000 to 287,000 (the

earlier quarter included the first half-hour of The Edge, before

Business Center expanded). According to CNNfn’s own figures (for

Moneyline, Nielsen counts only CNN, not CNNfn), the average rating since

the two new anchors took over is 280,000. A repeat broadcast of a

compressed Moneyline airs at 11:30 pm ET and gains an additional 261,000


Only months after Dobbs left, Moneyline faced the loss of another

anchor, when Willow Bay followed her husband, ABC executive Bob Iger,

when he relocated to Los Angeles to become president and COO of The Walt

Disney Co. But CNNfn has found a solution: starting in late summer 2000,

Bay will coanchor the show from Los Angeles, contributing hi-tech and

biotech stories.

CNNfn is now headed by president Shelby Coffey, a former LA Times editor

who was a second choice to Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul

Steiger, who reportedly turned down a dollars 1 million salary.

One of Coffey’s first major initiatives is an alliance with a range of

publications, including The Industry Standard, Financial Times and

eCompany Now. Together these print publications will help CNNfn create a

’bicoastal new-economy unit’ to get closer to the key players in Silicon


Winning guests

But ask PR pros where the top guests are going and they’ll say CNBC.

Laura Berger, chairman of South Orange, NJ-based BergerBrown

Communications, says it’s much tougher to get clients on Business Center

because of that.

’They take a lot longer to get back to you. They’ve got the cream of the


However, one publicist complains that CNBC has so many staff members

that communication breakdowns are common. To give an example, this

publicist says she and a client were shown into the makeup area by an

assistant, while a CNBC producer ranted on the publicist’s cell phone

voice mail about the pair not showing up.

Berger placed Peter Doyle, chief portfolio strategist with the Internet

Fund, on Moneyline and says the advantage with CNNfn is that you get a

quick response and they are very open to new ideas.

Colleen Harty, CNN deputy director of booking, who is responsible for

working with PR pros on guest appearances, says there’s no strict policy

about taking guests who have already appeared on CNBC. Harty, who is

deputy to director of guest booking Andy Breslau, adds: ’There is no

booking war. Moneyline is the show everyone wants to be on. Don’t tell

my boss, but my job is pretty easy - I don’t have to sell it. The people

come to me.’

The pitch

Another significant difference between the two shows is that Moneyline

will take pitches on private firms while Business Center deals only in

the realm of publicly traded companies, according to Hillary Deutschman,

vice president of Ruder Finn’s marketing communications group. Because

of the interest in pre-IPO firms, ’CNNfn is watched by a lot of venture

capitalists,’ says Deutschman.

The best time to pitch Harty is in the mornings. Her day starts at 7:30

am when she looks at how the markets performed overseas and searches out

economic reports that may impact the US exchanges. By 10:15 am the team

is looking at what’s likely to be on the live show that evening, though

the agenda is fluid. But after 4 pm, virtually nothing can be changed

unless it’s a huge breaking news story.

There is little allocation of beats between the reporters on the show,

so Harty advises PR pros to direct pitches to her. E-mail is the best

method, as faxes rarely make it to her desk. Harty says she is keen to

know about various conventions and trade shows since they often provide

news and access to market makers.

Time Warner’s acquisition by AOL may yet provide a boost for CNNfn’s

news division, both in terms of what it can contribute to AOL’s Web

offering and the benefit it may derive from broadband rollout.

Berger predicts a comeback for Moneyline: ’Long term, they will go back

to where they were. There is a good range of on-air personalities and

formats and you’ll see distribution increasing and demand from




Moneyline News Hour

5 Penn Plaza

20th floor

New York, NY 10001

Tel: (212) 714-5800

Bookings desk: (212) 714-5557

Fax: (212) 714-5548



Executive producer: Jenny Harris

Senior producer: Chris Huntington

Deputy director of booking: Colleen Harty.

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