Learning to crawl

Newsies piling on text boxes

For a medium that gets tagged as illiterate, TV is giving viewers more and more to read.

Take financial cabler CNBC, which is increasingly crowding out the talking heads in a Times’ Square-like barrage of flashing lights, tickers, “live” bugs, banners, multiple screens and data boxes.

“Our people are watching their TV and computer side-by-side,” says David Friend, CNBC’s senior VP for business news. “They not only can, but do, absorb all the data we put on the screen.”

It’s all to convey urgency and appeal to a younger demo used to multiple streams of information.

“The print gives you the illusion that things are happening,” says Steve Friedman, former exec producer of “Today.”

Then there are the increasingly busy backgrounds: CNN’s Anderson Cooper delivers the news in front of spinning blue nebulae. CNBC’s backgrounds include spinning globes and a speeding clock. Even Lou Dobbs has had his visage squeezed to accommodate a list of upcoming segments.

CNN is pushing the envelope further with its revamped “Situation Room,” which trained no fewer than six monitors on the confirmation hearings of Judge Samuel Alito.

Ratings have been nothing to write home about — auds trailed off quickly once it became clear the hearings would yield few fireworks. But CNN execs say thelook is a hit with younger demos; the show raised its afternoon 18-34 aud more than 100% over the same hours last year.

So look for screens to get busier.

Says Friedman: “TV has decided it’s no longer radio with pictures; it’s television with text, especially on cable.”

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