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Fox Business v. CNBC; Ailes v. The Critics; My Programming Suggestions:”Failure Is Never Pemanent Unless You Accept It”

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For whom does the bell toll?  It tolls for thee, CNBC.

There is a must read interview with Roger Ailes on the start-up of the Fox Business Channel in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required.)  Excerpt one, one, on the new network:


WSJ: What specific things has CNBC done in anticipation of Fox Business?

Mr. Ailes: The first thing they did was to say, “Well, Ailes seems to be patriotic, so we’ll name it ‘America’s Business Network’ and take that away from Ailes.”… They’ve embraced capitalism suddenly… . They have a tremendous advantage. They’re in 90 million homes. They have a 17-year head start. I put them on track 12 years ago….And we’ve announced when we’re going to come with our programming in our 30 million little pathetic homes. If they can’t kill us in the crib now, it’s only going to get worse for them day to day.

WSJ: How will you surmount that?

Mr. Ailes: Well, if you study history, the victories did not always go to the people with the great resources. [Confederate Gen.] Stonewall Jackson seemed to be undermanned in every campaign and won. [Union Gen. George] McClellan had plenty of resources in every fight and lost. That isn’t always what matters….They’re winning — because they’re a monopoly. They’re winning the same way CNN was winning when we came on the scene with Fox News….Once you have competition, it’s a different kind of fight.

Excerpt two, on working:

WSJ: Are you a hands-on manager?

Mr. Ailes: I have a working knowledge of all the areas. I have probably 14 vice presidents who report to me. I have to know enough about each of their areas to know how to ask the proper questions….I think what I bring to it is life experience. People say, “How can you? You didn’t go to Columbia Journalism School, how can you run a news organization?” I say, “I have two qualifications: One, I didn’t go to Columbia Journalism School, so there’s a chance I’ll be fair, and, two, I never want to go to a party in this town, so there’s nobody’s a- I have to kiss.”

I think my management style is direct….I want very fast decisions. I think the worst decision is usually no decision.

WSJ: You’ve said there’s a long slog ahead of you, maybe up to four years. Is that something you look forward to or dread?

Mr. Ailes: …There are no options. The problem with most people who don’t succeed is that they see options….It’s the way I was brought up. I dug ditches, I put in sewer pipe, I put in guardrail. When I was 18, my dad looked at me and said,”Where are you going?… You can’t live here….You going to go in the service? You want me to put your name in up at the shop?…Try to go to college?”…So, I went to a cheap state school so I could work three jobs. When you don’t see options, you don’t give up easy. The real problem with our society is we’ve taken the word responsibility and turned it into entitlement, and we sit around thinking that’s an option.

Spoken like a true son of Warren, Ohio.

Ailes doesn’t want the enitre world of television watchers for his new network.”Fox News has a very-high-income audience,” he notes,  “and I think that any business channel automatically draws that. We’re not gonna reach for a lower financial demographic.”

When his questioner asks if he intends to try and grab Jim Cramer and Maria Bartiromo, Ailes demurs, but he wasn’t asked about the obvious taget: Larry Kudlow.  Kudlow brings exactly the sort of approach, style and, crucially, expertise that the Fox Business channel watcher would value.  If any of the CNBC talent can be be picked off, watch for Kudlow & Co to arrive rebranded at the new channel.

You have to love this exchange:

WSJ: What do you think of Alan Greenspan’s recent criticisms of President Bush?

Mr. Ailes: You can’t sell a book in America if you don’t dump on Bush. That’s the cheapest shot in the world. You cannot get an advance, and you can’t sell a book because the publishers are all people who hate Bush and hate Republicans.

Ailes not only knows TV; he knows publishing.

Finally, here’s an exchange to clip out and send round the room:

WSJ: I’d like to switch gears and ask you about the Fox station group, which you inherited, along with this office, a little over a year ago when Mr. Murdoch’s son Lachlan left News Corp. Not long after that, you were surprised by the merger of UPN and the WB networks to form the CW.

Mr. Ailes: Yeah, they gave me about five minutes notice.

WSJ: MyNetworkTV, which you created to replace the programming you lost because of the merger, had an unimpressive first year. It took in less than $50 million in ad revenue, although things are looking better this fall. What’s your strategy for MyNetworkTV and the station group?

Mr. Ailes: The strategy is to get it out of the dumper. We tried something, [inexpensive, prime-time soap operas,] which was a spectacular failure. Failure is never permanent unless you accept it. That type of programming didn’t work, so we got rid of it, and we started other things.


BDS will fade away after the president leaves office, but the left will go on hating Murdoch and Ailes for generations because they combined to shatter the elite media’s monopoly on the television audience, just as Rush shattered the MSM’s general monopoly on all audience.

Now Murdoch and Ailes have a new channel with which to drain a last pool of profits on which one the dinosaur media depends.  May the new network prosper.

It won’t hurt to have the one of the most affable and intelligent men in all of broadcast, Neil Cavuto, as the signature talent. 

My programming suggestion for the development team:  A weekend show intended to teach the 18-34 demographic the basics of financial common sense and investment planning.  I have learned from a long string of interns that (1)they are ignorant of the basics and (2)eager to learn.  Find a couple of 20-somethings who know what they are doing and the young demographic that will become the next generation of investor giants will show up.

Read the whole interview.  Twice.  Especially if you work at NBC.

For whom does the bell toll?  It tolls for CNBC.

What’s next for Fox?  Don’t rest easy, ESPN.  Talking heads are talking heads.


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