Can Maria Bartiromo save Fox Business Network?

It's still a distant runner-up in the ratings. Will poaching arch-rival CNBC's biggest star change the game?

By The Week Nov 19, 2013 2:20PM
© Charles Sykes/AP
Maria Bartiromoin 2013CNBC is losing one of its biggest stars, Maria Bartiromo (pictured), when her contract expires on Nov. 24.

By all accounts, she is headed to rival financial news channel Fox Business Network, and there are two basic ways of looking at the move: CNBC is letting its "Money Honey" go after 20 years to make room for new talent; or FBN just poached CNBC's top star, showing how serious it is about unseating its more popular business-news competitor.

From the statements released by CNBC and Bartiromo, the split seems amicable enough. Bartiromo's "contributions to CNBC are too numerous to list but we thank her for all of her hard work over the years and wish her the best," said CNBC. Bartiromo replied that "it's hard to sum up the gratitude and appreciation" she has for the CNBC team that gave her "a front row seat to some of the most important economic stories in the world" for two decades.

So perhaps both sides believe this parting of ways is in their best interest. But in the media, the dominant narrative is that Fox Business just scored a huge coup. CNBC is owned by Comcast (CMCSA), while Fox Buxiness News is owned by 21st Century Fox (FOX).

This is "a big get for Roger Ailes and a major loss for NBC Universal," says Politico's Dylan Byers. "Losing Bartiromo is an tough blow for CNBC," agrees Michael O'Connell at The Hollywood Reporter. "The prestigious new hire was welcome news for Fox Business Network, which lags far behind CNBC in the ratings," says USA Today's Roger Yu.

How far behind? "Last week, Fox Business averaged fewer than 10,000 viewers in the group that attracts advertisers, those between the ages of 25 and 54," says Bill Carter at The New York Times. "CNBC had more than three times as many with 31,000." Carter, for what it's worth, agrees with his peers: "The signing is a coup of sorts for Fox Business, which has struggled to establish a profile."

Fox Business Network has slowly built up its roster of stars, stealing Charlie Gasparino from CNBC in 2010 and Lou Dobbs away from CNN in 2011, as well as dipping into the talent pool at Fox News.

But "while CNBC certainly didn't have its best quarter," seeing its average daily viewership drop 29 percent in the 25-54 demographic, says Sam Thielman at AdWeek, "Fox Business dipped from a mere 14,000 demo viewers to 9,000 for the same period." Whatever her reasons for jumping ship, he adds, "the move to FBN won't increase Bartiromo's viewer base."

Bartiromo will also reportedly make appearances on Fox News, which will raise her profile considerably. But the $2 million to $3 million question -- her reported annual salary at CNBC -- is whether Bartiromo can increase FBN's base by bringing a significant number of her fans with her. The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove has his doubts:
Comparisons can be invidious, but by some estimates Lou Dobbs, her one-time boss when she was a greenhorn producer and assignment editor at CNN Business News, has been able to draw only seven percent of his CNN audience in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic since leaping to FBN in March 2011. Bartiromo -- whom Dobbs notoriously advised against leaving CNN for CNBC in the early 1990s, saying it would be a serious career mistake -- might or might not do better. [Daily Beast]
Another point of comparison is Erin Burnett, who jumped from CNBC to CNN in 2011. TV Newser's Chris Ariens checked in on Burnett in May 2012, eight months into her CNN tenure, and found a mixed bag. Burnett's ratings had been sliding for six months at that point -- along with CNN's -- but she was still drawing a larger monthly audience to her seven pm show (452,000 total viewers and 131,000 in the 25-54 group) than as CNBC's morning show host (283,000 total, 66,000 in the 25-54 group). That's not as great as it looks, Ariens adds:
CNN Erin is topping CNBC Erin, even doubling the demo. But take into consideration that CNN is available in more homes, seven pm (54 percent) has about double the HUT (homes using television) levels as nine am (29 percent), that CNN is a general interest news network and that CNBC's ratings don't include out-of-home viewers, and you get a sense of where things stand. [TV Newser]
In July, when Bartiromo was reportedly shopping herself around to FBN and CNN, an unidentified business news source told The New York Post that "it would be good news for Fox if she came over, but bad news for her." FBN's looser, debate-centric approach to TV was very different than CNBC's more orderly, scripted style, the source added.

Bartiromo's success at Fox Business Network may have less to do with her talents and adaptability than with the stock market's health. A big reason FBN's and CNBC's ratings have been dropping is that the markets have been on a calm, upward trajectory. If things go haywire in the economy, that will be bad news for the U.S. but great news for Bartiromo's debut at FBN. Her former colleagues at CNBC would benefit, too, but in a crisis you want a trusted face explaining the news. That's where losing Bartiromo could really sting.

More from The Week

Nov 19, 2013 3:14PM


Over the past week, here's where things stood:
CNBC Total Day Average: 171,000 Total Viewers, with 51,000 in the key 25-54 year-old demographic
FBN Total Day Average: 63,000 Total Viewers, with 14,000 in the 25-54 demo
"CNBC is down -14% in viewers and down -15% in the demo vs. 2011, while FBN is up +2% and up +17%. CNBC is delivering its lowest rated year since 2005 with some shows down as much as -30% vs. last year."

Total DayP2+ (000s)25-54 (000s)35-64 (000s)
FOXN 1,375 307 576
CNN 281 86 118
MSNBC 400 126 188
CNBC 135 31 57
FBN 63 13 26
HLN 193 83 116
PrimetimeP2+ (000s)25-54 (000s)35-64 (000s)
FOXN 2,157 344 775
CNN 331 59 134
MSNBC 595 169 253
CNBC 138 41 63
FBN 57 7 12
HLN 344 114 192

Nov 19, 2013 3:41PM
Nov 19, 2013 5:07PM
Hey, how about MSNBC?  Can anyone save them?  Or how about CNN?  Now there is a network that is doing such an outstanding job.  Guess the only viewers CNN has are those waiting in airports or forced to watch their network at hotels across the country.  Golly gee. Isn't it interesting how everyone is so worried about Fox?  I bet the Murdock family is really worried that their news networks are collapsing.  Oh, that's right.  The top cable news program is now at 8:00 on (guess what) Fox News. 
Nov 19, 2013 3:30PM
  Probably indicated something against our present administration one to many times, I think that's twice. There has been a number that has preceded her for that reason. Just guessing. Guy gets away with more most because of his personality and indirect approach. Still I am surprised they haven't sent him down like they did Mackey. It's fun to watch Melissa get real set of nerves when anyone questions the administration.
Nov 19, 2013 5:47PM
Maybe not? But there's not a person walking on this earth who can save msnbc
Nov 19, 2013 5:23PM
The markets these days are a crap shoot at best; how one person at Fox or anywhere else will change that fact is beyond me. The only way to get accurate investing information for any market is through hard work, research and then more research...... It's certainly not from watching a TV show. 
Nov 19, 2013 6:21PM
Has Fox traded Geraldo Rivera for her?
Nov 19, 2013 6:26PM
If you want to see a real ratings catastrophe, check out FOXN vrs msnbc.

msnbc, the TMZ wannabe of "news networks".

Maybe they can replace Maria with Rachel Maddow's adams apple.
Nov 19, 2013 7:02PM
Can what's-her-name save Fox Business News?  WTF?  This sounds like a typical MSN sour grapes headline.
Nov 19, 2013 5:21PM
I quit watching her on CNBC when she kept telling us how wonderful the bankers and financial institution CEO's were during the financial meltdown of 2008.  Not what I would call a loss for CNBC but probably a gain for Fox Business since their ratings can't be a whole lot worse.
Nov 19, 2013 8:09PM
I am happy to see that she is expanding her career and wants to have a lot more intelligent viewer's which will happen at Fox. Good Luck Maria !!
Nov 19, 2013 5:32PM
I have been watching cnbc for a long time. I have learned a lot more than I thought I would but lately I have stopped watching some segments because of one sided politics. I watch for news not political opinion. Maria always fell all over herself being nice to guests who shared her politics and argued with guests that did not. I will not be watching Fox.
Nov 19, 2013 7:10PM
Survival of the fittest - any or all could crash and I would not lose any sleep over it!  In the meantime, beautiful sexy lady, and obviously - smart!  Good luck to her!
Nov 19, 2013 6:44PM

For business cable  news, I usually go with Bloomberg where there is a lot less blustering and shouting and a whole lot more insight, interviews and information.  Bloomberg has superior international markets coverage as well.



Nov 19, 2013 8:09PM
I read the headline and then stopped. This has to be some really ****ss writeing this because fox has more viewers than msn msnbc nbc cbs and abc combined. These yo yo are trying to get their ratings up because they pushed for obama care and now that that cat is out of the bag everyone knows what these morons was pushing. They really sux really bad and trying to insinuate fox need help is just really hilarious. 
Nov 19, 2013 4:32PM
Get rid of Joe Kernan from the morning show and send him to Fox also.
Nov 19, 2013 5:59PM
For someone who used to be reasonable, her recent comments certainly make it seem like she has started drinking the Fox Kool-Aid, so glad to see her move on.
Nov 26, 2013 4:03PM
No, Fox Business is terrible.  Neil Cavuto is no longer relevant having politicized himself.
Nov 19, 2013 6:45PM

I cannot understand the importance anybody has ever put on her she just buddies with all the rich dudes and carries their water other than that nothing!!!


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