Network adds to heated news competition

The dawn of Fox Business today opens up a new competitive period in the business of televised business news.

The launch, skedded for 5 a.m. ET, follows two years of corporate feints by News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch and his news impresario Roger Ailes, “Main Street vs. Wall Street” rhetoric and two frenzied weeks of promotion.

Ads for Fox Business — Fox dropped the “network” from the name — have been running on CNBC through spots purchased locally through cable operators.

The channel’s managing editor, Neil Cavuto, devoted his Friday “Common Sense” seg on the Fox News Channel to promoting the new net, promising to strip away business jargon and comparing its prospects to those of FNC, which launched in 1996 and matched CNN in the ratings within four years.

“Viewers have a way of finding programming worth watching — not just brokers and hedge-fund managers but moms and dads and college students,” he said. “We will ask all the questions in English. It is in our DNA to want to do better, and it is in our DNA to make sure you do, too.”

Cavuto will remain host of “Your World” on FNC as well as host an hour on Fox Business after the close of trading in New York.

Murdoch promised a more business-friendly take on the news, and if the tenor of “Your World” is any indication, he won’t be disappointed. On Friday, Cavuto hosted a roundtable debate, “Do companies need to be taxed to go green?”

Unlike 1996, when the media world scoffed at Ailes’ upstart network, Fox Business is launching with some pretty heavy advertising support, including Ameritrade, MasterCard, Southwest Airlines, Nasdaq and United Airlines.

A spokesman said the network has already sold more advertising than Fox News did in its first nine months.

The net launched a new stock index it calls the “Fox 50,” a basket of big-cap consumer stocks including Nike, Coca-Cola, FedEx and AT&T. The index was listed Friday on Marketwatch.com, part of Dow Jones, which will soon become part of the News Corp. empire.

Headliners include Alexis Glick, who will helm the critical morning hours of the network, followed by former Sacramento radio host Tom Sullivan. Cavuto and David Asman will host hours after the closing bell and Nashville-based personal-finance guru Dave Ramsey has a show in primetime.

One program, “Happy Hour,” will shoot live in the wood-burled Bull & Bear bar inside Gotham’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Last week the net announced a raft of new talent signings, including former HP chief Carly Fiorina and veterans poached from Bloomberg TV, Forbes magazine and various local TV stations.

Due to limited distribution — 34 million homes at launch — it will be years before Fox Business can meaningfully challenge CNBC in the ratings. The net doesn’t yet have full distribution in New York City because it hasn’t inked a deal with Cablevision Systems.

But more than ratings, CNBC has always cast the battle as one for affluent viewers. The average net worth of CNBC’s viewership — both securities and real estate — is $1.7 million according to Mendelsohn; at Bloomberg TV, it’s $2.4 million.

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