OLD Media Moves

CNBC can't decide between Wall Street or Main Street

October 11, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

In recent months, CNBC executives have emphasized that the network caters to the Wall Street crowd. Earlier this month, for example, CNBC president Mark Hoffman told employees in a memo that the business news cable network “is the network for the wealthy and those who aspire to be wealthy.”

CNBCBack in August, Hoffman told Broadcasting & Cable that CNBC is “an investor network. We always frame the biggest business stories of the day and the inherent conflict of business. That resonates with our audience, which is the wealthiest audience out there.”

So, why is it that CNBC is increasingly putting a “Main Street” focus on its coverage? Could it be that Fox Business Network — which will launch on Monday — has the leader running scared because it says it will focus on business news for “Main Street”?

I ran a search on “Main Street” on the CNBC web site this afternoon. And what I found — in addition to the Fox Business Network press releases announcing its new hires, which I don’t think CNBC really wants on its site — was a number of CNBC shows or segments focusing on “Main Street.”

On Tuesday, there was this piece discussing the disconnect between “Main Street” and Wall Street, with Morris Reid, Democratic strategist, and CNBC’s Larry Kudlow. Also on Tuesday, CNBC viewers heard anchor Bill Griffeth take a look at what voters on “Main Street” wanted to hear in Tuesday’s CNBC Republican debate, with Caleb Solomon, Boston Globe business editor, and Tom Walsh, Detroit Free Press columnist.

Last Friday, a segment with CNBC anchor Sue Herera discussed what is happening on “Main Street” with Doug Smith, the business columnist of Charlotte Observer. And then, last Thursday, there was this segment discussing “turning from jobs on Wall Street to jobs on Main Street, with David Rosenberg, Merrill Lynch North American economist, and CNBC’s Dylan Ratigan.”

That’s four segments mentioning “Main Street” in five days, when in September there were only two segments for the entire month that mentioned “Main Street,” according to CNBC’s web site search function.

In the past two days, I’ve been interviewed by two wire reporters and one TV show about Fox Business Network’s launch, and I’ve told them all the same thing: CNBC’s audience is different than Fox’s target audience, so it should have nothing to worry about.

So, what CNBC is doing by putting more “Main Street” segments on the network signals one of two things — either it’s trying to conduct a pre-emptive strike against its new competitor, which I would argue isn’t really going to be a competitor, or it’s scared of its new competitor.

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