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Yvette Kantrow

Yvette Kantrow

Posted: October 15, 2007 02:09 PM

No Sex and Drugs?


No sooner had we recovered from the prelaunch hype surrounding the arrival of Portfolio magazine -- not to mention the post-launch disappointment and inevitable schadenfraude -- then we now have to contend with the hullabaloo around another new business media offering: the Fox Business Network channel. Set to launch Oct. 15, Rupert Murdoch's long-awaited competitor to CNBC last week gave the public a glimpse of what it has been cooking up all these months in the form of a marketing Web site (foxbusiness.com).

Once you get past the flashiness of the thing -- individual photos of the ridiculously over-coiffed on-air team stream by in a manner meant to emulate a stock ticker -- you gather that the new channel's core values or beliefs appear to be "Money, Success and Happiness," with the latter illustrated by an American flag. No surprise there; this is Fox News. But what really struck us is that like the pre-launch Portfolio, Fox Business is promising to reinvent its genre-as-we-know-it and produce a business-media product for people who, well, don't really like business.

To whit, anchor Cody Willard, an investment manager who used to appear on CNBC's Kudlow & Co., says on the site that he's "excited to jump into the mainstream" and voice his "many fundamental objections." These apparently include reporters who attribute a dip in Dow futures to a slight rise in oil prices, when the real reason is selling pressure from "some manic-depressive running a giant hedge fund." Similarly, anchor Dagen McDowell tells the site's viewers to "forget about monetary policy and interest rates"; she and "everyone else" is "utterly obsessed with the fact that Alan Greenspan wrote most of his new book in the bathtub."

Honestly, we don't know anyone who is obsessed with that fact, but maybe that's because Greenspan's penchant for working in the tub has been in wide circulation at least since 1997, when it was first reported by The Washington Post. Furthermore, how is that factoid, or Willard's musings about hedge fund managers, or anchor Jenna Lee's recounting of how she got laid off from a job -- "I don't dread reporting any aspect of business news, except job cuts," she says -- supposed to help viewers attain Fox's interlocking virtues of money, success and happiness? Understanding our former Fed chairman's hygiene habits won't make you a good investor; understanding interest rates might not either, but it can at least help.

Like Portfolio, Fox pledges to make business news fun and exciting -- "You won't fall asleep watching this; I can guarantee you that," gushes anchor Alexis Glick in a promo on the Web site. But even Portfolio, despite great photography and beautiful packaging, has yet to be embraced by the well-heeled masses for which it yearns. Of course, that hasn't stopped its competition from reacting -- Fortune embarked on and touted a slight redesign -- and the same thing appears to be happening in business-TV land. According to The New York Observer, former adman Donny Deutsch is now, thanks to the Fox launch, "playing a growing role in CNBC's plan to get a little more Main Street." Deutsch's CNBC show, The Big Idea, "with its anyone-can-succeed mentality, increasingly appears to be aimed straight at Middle America," the Observer observes. The show, which spotlights working stiffs turned successful entrepreneurs and a studio audience that chants "Millions! Millions!", is now known as "the daily road map to the American Dream."

CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo appeared to be channeling that dream in a recent spot on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Asked by a flummoxed Maher whether he should play what seemed to him to be a fickle market, Bartiromo answered with an unequivocal yes. "And the reason is, is that you're investing in America," she gushed. "You're investing in the global story. And it has been sound. You don't want to just throw your money at things you don't understand. But if you do approach investing long-term wisely, I think you'll do very well."

The Fox folks couldn't have said it better themselves. Very soon, they undoubtedly will.

Yvette Kantrow is the executive editor of The Deal.