Fox launching business network

Channel will take on dominant player CNBC

NEW YORK — Rupert Murdoch is pulling the trigger on the long-gestating Fox Business Channel, adding some heavyweight competition to NBC Universal’s CNBC.

Years in development, the channel will launch in the fourth quarter of 2007 and attempt to take on the category’s dominant player, CNBC, as Roger Ailes did with Fox News Channel when it took on and surpassed CNN in the ratings five years after it launched.

“We have long considered the business television market to be underserved,” Murdoch said. “Having built Fox News into a cable news leader and a cultural phenomenon against all expectations, I’m confident Roger Ailes can do the same in business news.”

Murdoch indicated that Fox Business Channel will follow the FNC template in the way it reflects his philosophical outlook and the way it differentiates itself in tone and attitude.

“It will have a more pro-business stance … CNBC leaps on every scandal. It’s a negative attitude,” he said. “I won’t announce too much detail on the programming, because everything we say, CNBC will immediately copy.”

Indeed, Ailes’ formula has been so widely copied by its competitors that the format of news during the day and brash, opinionated hosts in primetime is the norm on cable.

Ailes will face a revitalized CNBC, which, behind successful shows like “Mad Money,” grew its total audience by more than 20% last year.

“Bring it on,” said CNBC spokesman Kevin Goldman. “We welcome the competition, if it ever shows up.”

News Corp. has in place distribution agreements for the channel with Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Charter Communications and DirecTV, covering 30 million subscribers. CNBC is considered fully distributed with access to 91 million homes.

The net secured a spot in Manhattan with Time Warner on expanded basic, considered essential real estate for a channel targeting financial professionals. It does not yet have distribution on Cablevision Systems, which cover some of New York’s wealthiest suburbs.

The delay reflects the difficulty in gaining carriage for new cable networks, but that logjam may loosen as telcos like Verizon and AT&T build out their own television networks, and the switch to digital opens up bandwidth.

Fox had previously appointed a management staff for the channel, including Neil Cavuto, who will anchor a show as well as serve as managing editor of business news. Cavuto will continue to anchor FNC’s “Your World.” He also hosts the weekly “Cavuto on Business” and oversees FNC’s Saturday business block including “Bulls & Bears,” “Cashin’ In” and “Forbes on Fox,” the highest-rated business shows on cable.

Producer Kevin Magee, exec VP of Fox News, will oversee day-to-day operations of the network. Alexis Glick, former business correspondent at CNBC and “Today” sub, will also be an on-air anchor, as well as director of business news, reporting to Cavuto.

In early 2004, the net hired longtime business correspondent Stuart Varney, who reports for the Saturday business block and stands to play a bigger role on the new network.

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