Rupert Murdoch takes aim at CNBC

Fox Business Network to launch on Oct. 15

Rupert Murdoch vowed that News Corp.’s upcoming Fox Business Network would take a very different approach to business news than CNBC, casting the upcoming battle as Wall Street vs. Main Street.

“It’s going to be different from CNBC, just as Fox News is different from CNN,” Murdoch told Wall Streeters at the Goldman Sachs-sponsored conference Tuesday. “CNBC is a financial channel for Wall Street; we’re for Main Street.”

CNBC has had little competition, short of Bloomberg TV, since CNN shuttered CNNfn in late 2004. Fox Business Network is set to launch in 34 million homes on Oct. 15.

“They dwell too much on failures and scandals and politics,” Murdoch said of CNBC. “We want to spend a lot of time on innovation, successes and people who are making money.”

Murdoch said the launch of FBN and the acquisition of Dow Jones coincide with what he believes to be “a unique point in history” where demand for financial information will increase for decades as prosperity and entrepreneurial culture spread around the globe.

He said he expects News Corp.’s $5 billion acquisition of Dow Jones to be completed in December. CNBC and Dow Jones have an exclusive content agreement that runs through 2012, but Murdoch said the deal covers only business news and won’t prevent Fox Business Net from using the brand or the content.

“There is no reason we could not have Wall Street Journal coverage of politics, international affairs, lifestyle, travel, you name it,” he said.

CNBC spokesman Kevin Goldman didn’t dispute Murdoch’s interpretation of the agreement. “We’re about providing fast, accurate, actionable and unbiased business news to people with a lot of money and those who aspire to have a lot of money,” he said.

News Corp. has already identified $100 million in savings at Dow Jones that Murdoch described as the “low-hanging fruit.” He added that the company employs 1,600 journalists globally at Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal and that they could be better leveraged by having wire reporters “work closely with the paper itself.”

Murdoch said he hadn’t decided whether to switch from a subscription to a solely advertising-supported business model. The switch would mean a short-term $30 million hit to the bottom line, eventually offset by higher ad revenue.

Cost savings, he said, “are not really what we’re about; we’re about expanding revenues.”

Sensitive that Wall Street has been wary of News Corp. stock, Murdoch defended his record of acquiring and launching new businesses.

“When we started Fox News, I was considered an idiot,” he said. “How could I possibly do that, spend a billion dollars? It’s worth $10 billion today. Two years ago you were laughing at me about (buying) MySpace. What’s that worth today? Certainly more than 20 times what we paid for it.”

It took Fox News five years to reach full distribution in more than 90 million homes across the U.S. He said if the company produced “the channel we think we can,” full distribution for FBN would come in the same time frame.

Weeks from its scheduled launch, Fox Business Network has been busy lining up talent. The network named four new anchors on Tuesday: Peter Barnes, Jenna Lee, Nicole Petallides and Cody Willard.

They join David Asman, Dagen McDowell, Cheryl Casone, Stuart Varney and Rebecca Gomez, who were named last week.

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