How “Nightly Business Report” has changed under CNBC
Tyler Mathisen co-anchors CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” one of the network’s longest-running program franchises, as well as “Nightly Business Report,” an award-winning evening business news program on U.S. public television that CNBC began producing three years ago this week.
Previously, Mathisen was managing editor of CNBC, responsible for directing the network’s daily content and coverage. He had been the co-anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell.”
Mathisen has reported one-hour documentaries for the network, including “Best Buy: The Big Box Fights Back,” “Supermarkets Inc: Inside a $500 Billion Money Machine” and “Death: It’s a Living.” Mathisen was also host of the CNBC series “How I Made My Millions.”
Before joining CNBC in 1997, Mathisen spent 15 years as a writer, senior editor and top editor for Money magazine. Among other duties, he supervised the magazine’s mutual funds coverage, its annual investment forecast issue and its expansion into electronic journalism, for which it won the first-ever National Magazine Award for New Media in 1997.
Mathisen spoke with Talking Biz News by email about “Nightly Business Report” and his career. What follows is an edited transcript.
How has your typical day changed with anchoring “Nightly Business Report”?
Instead of getting in at the crack of dawn, I get in at the crack of 11. Kidding. My NBR day begins at 10 a.m. each day with a very focused conference call. We discuss the stories we think we will want or need to cover that evening, and we try to come up with fresh takes that will feel smart and new eight hours later.
We reconvene at 3 p.m. to try to lock down the rundown, but we’re inclined to change it right up to airtime if a compelling story breaks through. My day ends a little later than it used to – i.e., after 6 p.m.
How does that show differentiate its coverage than what I would see on CNBC?
Most of the day, CNBC is devoted to covering the market action in real time – what’s moving stocks, bonds, commodities. Our program steps back, at the end of the day, and tries to put market action into a broader context.
What’s more, many days we decide the markets aren’t the biggest, most interesting business story of the day. It may be a late-day earnings report, a development overseas, a controversial topic like Apple’s standoff with the FBI over unlocking an iPhone used by terrorists. We have a wide latitude to cover what we think is most interesting. At CNBC, the presumption is that during “game time,” you cover the game.
Tell me how you decide what NBR covers each night?
Well, it’s a little chemistry and a little alchemy. Our editorial team has been covering business, finance, the economy, the markets for a long time. There’s not much we haven’t seen. So every day we try to lead the program with what we think will be the business/finance/markets/economic story that will be most interesting to viewers: timely, newsworthy, fascinating, meaningful.
We want some pieces that really connect with viewers “where they live” – i.e., stories about housing prices, retirement, personal money management. And we also want to be sure we don’t miss anything they’d want to be up on at work the next morning.
Who do you see as competitors for NBR?
Interesting question. In terms of broadcast, as opposed to cable, television, we really don’t have any competition. And, in fact, there’s really not another half-hour daily evening business newscast – emphasis on newscast, strictly business, not politics – on television, cable or broadcast.
That said, we compete more broadly with all other purveyors of business and financial news on television, on the web, in print. We have to compete for eyeballs every day, increasingly with online providers of business news who can reach you in your purse or pocket via mobile devices.
Was there an adjustment when Sue Herera took over for Susie Gharib?
Not much. They are both named Sue/Susie. So it was pretty easy. I truly enjoy working with both of them, and they are each good friends. Sue Herera and I anchored together for many years on CNBC so the transition was very natural. And, Susie remains part of NBR as a contributor.
Is the goal to get NBR viewers to switch over to CNBC during the day?
CNBC acquired NBR three years ago because the network saw it as a nice addition to CNBC’s already diverse multi-media offerings and an opportunity expose the CNBC brand and editorial capabilities to a new, national audience.
While CNBC and NBR audiences are similar in profile – affluent business executives, financial professionals and serious investors — the goal of the program is to provide viewers with in-depth coverage of the top business news stories of the day delivered in a straightforward manner. We spend our time focused on that.
What’s been the biggest improvements in the show in the past three years?
CNBC’s global and national resources are much greater than those of the prior NBR producers. The result is a much more cosmopolitan, international, deeper broadcast. NBR now has the ability to report from where the news is happening and over the course of the last three years we have brought in reports from all over the world, thanks to CNBC’s network of correspondents in the U.S. and around the world. It is really not a fair comparison.
I also think the show’s pacing is more effective and engaging, the video editing is crisper and the production values are richer (he said modestly). Over the past three years, NBR has been recognized with several accolades including being named “Best in Business” by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, and most recently, according to the 2015 Erdos & Morgan opinion leader survey, NBR is ranked the No. 1 “most objective” news program in America, which makes the team very proud.
At the end of the day, I am happy and excited to say that NBR is firing on all cylinders, and we have seen growth in ratings, digital and social.
Does NBR have a dedicated staff separate from CNBC helping put the news together?
We are all CNBC employees, but we have a dedicated (small) team that works solely on our show. We do, of course, use lots of CNBC resources that are not purely dedicated to NBR– reporters, technical staff, graphics and news desk employees.
What are some of the things that you’d like to see improvement on with NBR?
Keep bringing in good guests and develop some core “franchises” that viewers associate with NBR only.
You’ve been in business journalism now for more than 30 years. What’s been the biggest change during that time period?
Digital competition, the fading of large print-only brands, speed. Information reaches consumers at a light speed now, and everyone expects it.