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Fox Business Network is ready for its close-up

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Shari Cohen, co-president of national broadcast at media buyer MindShare North America, has been quick to consider Fox Business Network, which following months of buildup will debut on cable TV Oct. 15.

"We have been trying to be preemptive in figuring out the best way to get in on the ground floor," said Cohen, adding that MindShare is having "active conversations" with Fox Business about how her client, Ameriprise Financial, can use the network as a marketing vehicle.

Cohen expects Fox Business to price its ad rates aggressively from the get-go. "I don't think they're going to give the store away, but you have to compel people to buy something without a proven track record," she said.

Guy Rancourt, VP-associate media director at ad agency Hill|Holiday, whose clients include John Hancock Insurance and Financial Services and Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., is taking more of a wait-and-see approach to the new network. "I don't think our clients will immediately jump on it," he said. "But if it gets traction and proves itself as a legitimate player, we would consider [ad buys on the network]."

Reaching 31 million homes

Fox Business will have an initial reach of 31 million U.S. homes through carriage deals with Charter Communications, Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable. By comparison, CNBC, which debuted in 1989, reaches 95 million homes in North America, according to Nielsen Media Research, which does not measure out-of-home viewing in places such as trading floors, offices and hotel rooms. Nielsen also does not measure Bloomberg Television, another competitor Fox Business Network will face.

John McCann, VP-ad sales at Fox Business, said the network's content will be a significant departure from that of CNBC and Bloomberg Television. "We're not just talking to hedge fund managers in Greenwich," he said. "There are affluent people all over this country, and a small-business owner in Seattle has a different set of concerns and desires" than Wall Street executives.

Although he would not divulge specific details about advertising, McCann said he expects "all types of ad categories" to be well-represented on the network.

Fox News Channel's longtime business anchor Neil Cavuto, who is senior VP-managing editor of business news, will oversee the programming schedule at the new network. The schedule had not been released as of press time.

Version Hints at Content

A micro version of the Fox Business News Web site (www.foxbusiness.com), introduced Oct. 1, gives advertisers a hint of the kind of content the channel will carry. It features an image of Wall Street intersecting with Main Street, and the tagline: "Business is your life" followed by `"'Life is your business." When clicked, the "intersection" then spreads apart to show the line "It's the same street." The site also has videos on money, success and happiness.

The rollout of Fox Business comes as parent company News Corp. prepares to complete its acquisition of Dow Jones & Co., which publishes The Wall Street Journal. Asked if he expects Dow Jones' resources to provide content for the network, McCann said, "Once the purchase is finalized, we'll be able to have those discussions."

CNBC has a content-sharing contract with Dow Jones through 2012. However, News Corp. Chairman-CEO Rupert Murdoch said at a recent Goldman Sachs-sponsored conference that Journal reporters may appear on the network to discuss nonfinancial topics such as politics and international news.

Even before going live, Fox Business already seems to be shaking things up in the precincts of cable business news.

Bloomberg Television in late September unveiled a new look and feel to its broadcasts with a brighter set design and better graphics. Repeated calls to Bloomberg LP for comment were not returned.

But the real battle for eyeballs is likely to be between Fox Business and the well-entrenched CNBC, which is rejiggering its schedule, effective Oct. 10.

Mark Hoffman, president of CNBC, said the programming moves were "a long time in coming" and not in reaction to fresh competition from Fox. "We're as strong and confident as we've ever been," he said.

Through September, CNBC's "Business Day," which runs Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET, averaged 85,000 viewers in the coveted 25-to-54-year-old demographic, a 39% increase compared with the same period in 2006.

Ken Doctor, a media analyst at research and advisory company Outsell, said Fox Business can carve a comfortable niche by targeting Main Street, which, in turn, could play into CNBC's mission of serving major investors.

"There is a substantial amount of money on Main Street," he said, "but it's lower down on the decision-making scale, which is an opportunity for CNBC to keep higher- CPM advertisers."

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