Paul Rittenberg

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Believe it or not, Paul Rittenberg once voted for Bill Clinton. He also wrote a thesis on the French Resistance during in World War II as an undergraduate history major at Princeton. In fact, Mr. Rittenberg has French relatives.

Why is this so unusual? Well, Mr. Rittenberg is senior VP-advertising and market research for Fox News, the all-news cable network that some observers believe is closely aligned with conservative politics, and whose outspoken pundits, especially Bill O'Reilly, openly abuse the French for not backing the U.S. in the Iraq war.

"Although it's disputable, I don't think being aligned with the party that's running everything is a bad thing," says Mr. Rittenberg. "We know that Fox News is on in the White House, and we know it's on in the Pentagon. If I'm pitching Boeing, that's good. Of course, if Howard Dean gets elected president, we'll have to regroup, but you know what? He's not there yet."

The loquacious Mr. Rittenberg is a success, thanks largely to his irrepressible pragmatism. He began with Fox News when it was born in October 1996 and has helped build the operation into the hottest ticket in cable news.

This year, Fox News finally caught up with archrival CNN, beating the AOL Time Warner net for most viewers. In the second quarter, according to Nielsen Media Research, Fox attracted 2,128,000 total viewers in prime time and 1,297,000 in total each day; CNN counted 1,242,000 in prime time and 790,000 for the day. Mr. Rittenberg has managed to translate those numbers into cash. This year, Fox News took in about $150 million in advertising, with cost per thousand rate increases of 10% to 12%. Mr. Rittenberg predicts that the network will bill well over $300 million in this calendar year, and more than $400 million next year.

"I've worked with Paul Rittenberg for 10 years and have found him to be one of the best in the business," says Roger Ailes, chairman-CEO of Fox News.

Mr. Rittenberg started out working in media departments as a buyer at ad agencies such as Benton & Bowles, with the likes of past Media Mavens Marc Goldstein and Irwin Gotlieb. "I still consider Marc and Irwin my mentors," says Mr. Rittenberg.

Now Mr. Goldstein says, "Paul got terrific training ... He's done a terrific job for his network in maximizing sales and revenue."

made network rounds

In 1983, he got a planning job at broadcast network ABC. He went to work for Fox Television and CNBC. There, he "quickly became Roger's guy," says Mr. Rittenberg. When Mr. Ailes left CNBC-he bolted after NBC would not allow him to run MSNBC as well as CNBC-Mr. Rittenberg followed.

"There were not a lot of people in the summer of `96 who ever thought we'd still be around in two years, except of course for Roger and Rupert Murdoch," Mr. Rittenberg says.

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