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
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
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.’
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
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.