CNBC Ratings at New Lows…How? …and Why Can’t Business TV Do What ESPN Does?

I really don’t get it.

I mean I get why Bloomberg and Reuters will never do great business television. They need to protect their terminal businesses. It’s after that I am at a loss.

Americans are entrepreneurial. We have short memories which are perfect for bull markets, ratings and money. We are the largest exporters of debt and culture. We have Silicon Valley and the best and biggest stock markets opened 5 days a week. We have athletes and entertainers making billions of dollars. They spend it, they invest it, they piss it away.

We have Nike, Google, Apple, Tesla, Facebook, 3M, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, IBM, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Venture Capitalists galore.

Is this an opportunity (yes)? Should we be ashamed (yes)? Is the language less important than Chinese or Spanish? (F#%^k NO)

It’s easy to poke fun at CNBC, but they are a business and they are going to do what they do. They are pointed in a direction.

Are their ratings slide an opportunity or a death knell for business television?

Take a look at this chart from Hert Capital:


How do we interpret this chart. Are we that apathetic towards business and stocks? Is it the ETF phenomenon?

I would argue that this one chart could be the subject of a week of arguments, probing and programming by a business channel.

I have heard about big data for two years now. The best readers of big data are not the companies plugged into twitter, they are CMT’s and options traders. They have been doing it for decades.

Who is in the best position to attack this opportunity?

Is it TechCrunch and AOL? That could be cool.

Is it a consortium of business schools and corporations? That would be awesome.

What about ESPN – the most innovative and dominant network of our time.

They have the audience, they have the network, they have the talent and more important, they have no baggage of what business television should be. The New York Times just wrote an excellent pice on them being on the offensive to protect their empire.

It starts with one show…a pre market or lunchtime or post market show…maybe even just a late night show and market wrap. It’s athletes, CEO’s and entertainers talking about money. It’s main street America discussing not just Tesla’s stock price but this 4 minute Tesla video on how they are made.

It just needs some fresh eyes, a push, a jumpstart. It has to be coming. I feel it.


  1. Barry Ritholtz says:

    2 major issues here:

    First, most Business TV is filler — very little signal, mostly noise. There simply isn’t that content which isn’t noise to fill 12 hours or so a day.

    Second, Business TV is for the most part filmed radio. There are almost no good visuals.

    On the other hand, Sports, Highlights, best plays are ALL VISUAL. It is the subject matter that makes ESPN such strong television content (and for the most part, lousy radio except for play-by-play.

    Other than a few charts, what does Business TV do that is all that different from Radio or a Podcast? It is essentially indistinguishable from those audio only mediums.

    Talking heads need not be on TV — radio is fine Ask yourself how much value add the Octobox brings.

    • yes on radio but radio – new radio is back. Podcasts , apps for aggregating them and mobile phones made this happen.

      The octabox needs to be reimagined but it would work. try Sqwiggle for a few days or google hangouts with smart friends and others listening in.

  2. tjf says:

    I think that a lot of their problems start with their left leaning political hosts. Most of the former viewers of the program are strong capitalists and the network just won’t acknowledge as such.

    • I dont think you are listening. This is not about CNBC. They cant change. They are part of a ship that is part of a package that is beholden to a ratings system that does not matter in the digital age. It needs to be reimagined with a different angle of attack

      • zachary mitchell says:

        I’m listening but I am not understanding. What is “it”? I get and agree with your comments on CNBC (I think) but what needs to be reimagined? The ratings system? The digital age?

        Treat these questions as though a inquisitive high-schooler is interviewing you for a school project please!

    • Reality is not reality. The companies executing daily and the stories of investors are what makes for financial television. the data is just the data. its a commodity. That said some part of a good channel would have a portion deidcated to reality of traders and investors and education

      • pointsnfigures says:

        My point above…..agree. The general public doesn’t understand finance. How many times have you heard people say it’s all above their head?

  3. Paul Rubillo says:

    How about a “red zone” approach where the coverage jumps from stock to stock as the day and news unfolds. You can key on earnings plays, analyst calls, stocks hitting new highs, stocks hitting new lows, with the focus staying on the pertinent names of the day. This cuts out all the filler we normally get. The success of the red zone for NFL coverage goes hand in hand to giving viewers exactly what they want – all the scoring plays or all the plays that are in the most crucial part of the field. Bring in successful traders/experts who aren’t afraid to be accountable. To me, beating the CNBC’s involves a more targeted reward for viewers. Commentary and stats of the day that can help viewers identify the best movers the minute they turn on the channel. Why stop with just stocks, bring more money matters into the equation – Wouldn’t you want to know the best mortgage rates you should be getting on a daily basis. Democratize any and all things money and you will have a great shot to build a passionate viewer base and give everyone exactly what they need to succeed financially. Who’s interested? I’d be game for a venture like this!

    • Hi Paulk –

      We tried using tools of three years ago and ran out of money and energy for the project. The best way will be through the streams. What perks up can be discussed in real time and everything else is in distributed hangouts. we invested in recently. Imagine a version of this product that was persistent with traders and journalists and than piped out. two way all the time.

  4. Just-a-trader says:

    1. Need to diversified the contents. No need to spend 8-10 hours of the day to talk about 30 stocks from Dow or even S&P500. Talk about what is hot. From your chart you can see Index volume is drying. Talk about something where traders are, looks at the volume in options/currency.
    2. Have few shows for education.
    3. Bring some reality competitions like “Real Trader Housewives” “So you think you can trade” “Are you smarter than analysts” . May be then my wife would let me watch “business television” during dinner :)

  5. pointsnfigures says:

    I think I know a way, helping a company try to get there. One of the problems is you have to engage a mainstream audience. Taking financial “stuff”, and distilling it into understandable terms for layman is HARD. It’s the only reason I see that wealth managers stay in business.

      • pointsnfigures says:

        I think there is entirely too much yelling on CNBC. They try to create controversy. Managing money isn’t yelling. It’s patience. I maintain distilling difficult financial concepts into bite sized pieces that are viral for average people is tough. FOX Business is targeting the layman that is interested in finance and never trades. Do they do a good job of it? I don’t know who Bloomberg is targeting-their programs have been pretty flat for the most part. CNBC driven by personality. The people are bigger than the market.

        The market is the biggest thing. Figuring it out is a constant Rubik’s cube.

        BTW, ESPN is mostly pretty boring now too.

  6. upsidetrader says:

    Love your new blog, CNBC is old media, the players are stale and the repetitiveness and redundancy of their content is sickening

  7. gregorylent says:

    business and sport, both with elements of theater, dramatic events with unknown outcomes, heroes and villains, emotions, ….

    but in business television, there is no room for pacing …

    in sport television, many methodical moments, punctuated by heroics … in business television, it is a constant state of emergency, United Airlines DOWN a Quarter POINT! .. no room for the drama of working the pitcher for a walk, pounding out the ground game …

    sport television is the drama of leisure .. business television is the drama of survival and fear .. of course they produce different formulas for story telling ..

    and sponsorship by brokerage firms is no help … would be like hospitals sponsoring the NFL ..

    • no brokerage sponsorship…the institutions have all the money. In my world, they would beg to be sponsoring because my channel would have the best and brightest watching just like they do on the streams everyday on stocktwits

      • gregorylent says:

        stocktwits tv would be interesting, if it were guys talking from their desks at home ..

        remember @gregormacdonald’s macro hour? always absorbing…

        • pointsnfigures says:

          You can have some avant garde stuff, but you need some professional production value. CNBC used to run their programming just like Sunday NFL Live. But, it has become personality driven.

  8. Synaptric says:

    1. CNBC (like most news outlets) has a shallow fascination with only a few stories at a time. (Examples Jamie Dimon dual title voting; hedge fund manger tweet-fits; etc.) Hundreds of genuine stories could hold viewer interest every day.

    2. The ratio of politicians-to-athletes is lower on ESPN than the ratio of politicians-to-entrepreneurs on CNBC. Equals broader viewer base.

    3. Pockets of clever use of visuals are indeed emerging on TV. (Example Adam Johnson presents many interesting visuals on Bloomberg’s Street Smart.)

  9. august9 says:

    CNBC commentators are actors not business people. Even Maria “how’s my mascara” Bartiloma never held a real job.

  10. Dimitris_Sot says:

    I view the CNBC Ipad app at then end of the day and search for nuggets. I search because they have people like Chanos, Jim Grant, Jim Rogers, etc. It may be interesting to hear what main street thinks – but I want to know how Gundlach and Gross are positioning their portfolios – not necessarily because they are right, but because they’re thoughtful and knowledgeable in a way not possible by main street. I listen to analysts who cover sectors for decades – not for target prices but for general themes. For me, this is the value of CNBC. I don’t care what Seinfeld or Tom Brady thinks about the markets.

  11. Dale Eff says:

    At the end of the day, when the competition ends on ESPN, there is a winner and a loser. At the end of the day on CNBC what are you left with? Sometimes a nugget but mostly opinions, propaganda, and uncertainty.

  12. KinsmanRedeemer says:

    I agree with tjf…I can’t stand their smug, left-leaning hosts. Liesman. Cramer (faux populist). John Harwood, the NY Times guy/Obama apologist. Simon Hobbs, who continually slams the tea party for no reason. Holy smokes, they run the entire morning.

    • Christopher Miles says:

      Cramer loves him some big oil and Nat Gas, neither exactly energy sources loved by Dems/Libs. Kudlow hates the Obama administration. As for the rest, they generally skew pro- business- Perhaps just not right wing enough for the crazy/extremist tea party crowd.

      • KinsmanRedeemer says:

        I forgot Sorkin. Cramer is old-school Dem but doesn’t really that his party has been hi-jacked by the Pelosis of the world. Do they count as crazy/extremist? I didn’t realize that believing in the Laffer curve and free market capitalism’s trumping of government “command-and-control” was considered crazy/extremist nowadays.

Comments are closed.