24-hour net expected to launch later this year

Rupert Murdoch’s promise to bring Fox attitude to a new business channel has the 24-hour cable news biz waiting to exhale.

“It’s going to be the neutron bomb of our industry,” says one on-air news personality. “Nothing is going to be the same once it lands.”

The channel, which will launch later this year, is expected to target the retail investor, which will differentiate it from CNBC and Bloomberg TV, and could give it a distinct advantage in the ratings.

So far only Murdoch has discussed the channel on the record, but it will fall under the aegis of Fox News Channel topper Roger Ailes, who helped launch CNBC and turned Fox News into a ratings powerhouse.

Fox already airs the top five business shows on cable, including “Your World With Neil Cavuto,” and its audiences are growing fast while the rest of the business news ratings have experienced a three-year decline. That drop claimed Time Warner’s CNNfn last year.

CNBC remains hugely profitable for NBC Universal, but its viewership has fallen from a peak average of 328,000 in 2001 to 134,000 this year.

The network appointed a new president last week to oversee a remake of its signature morning shows, “Squawk Box” and “Morning Call,” as well as primetime, which has foundered with reruns of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and failed shows hosted by ad man Donny Deutsch and former tennis star John McEnroe.

With CNNfn gone, CNBC still hasn’t beaten back a threat from Bloomberg TV, which regularly beats CNBC in the ratings for its morning show, running 5-8 a.m. on E! Entertainment.

Both Bloomberg and CNBC count professional investors as their viewing strength, but it could also be their undoing. Cavuto, who had two lingerie models on the show recently, programs for the masses. And that at-home audience is measured by Nielsen.

The biggest question is whether there are enough home-based Fox watchers –self-employed businesspeople or just amateur investors — to support another 24-hour channel.

Fox apparently hasn’t begun staffing up, but it could start poaching talent from the competition soon.

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