Getting a deal done with Time Warner is arguably the most important piece of the affiliate jigsaw puzzle, given the importance of the Manhattan market. A Time Warner Cable spokesman said negotiations were continuing, while a DirecTV spokesman would only say: "We're in discussions." If a DirecTV deal is in place, that would automatically put the channel in 15 million households.
Other tipsters say Fox News producers told folks they're expecting the launch this month, while analysts say recent meetings with News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and President Peter Chernin left them with the distinct impression that the Wall Street-focused sibling is close to birth. A message for a Fox News spokeswoman was not returned by press time.
The channel, under the aegis of Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, is likely to draw heavily on Fox News' existing on-air talent because cable-industry recruiters say there's been precious little activity on the hiring front and programming is likely to have the same provocative opinion format that characterizes many of Fox News Channel's current business shows. However, News Corp. might draw on some of the print staff of the London Times, which is edited by Melbourne, Australia-born Robert Thompson, who is a former editor of the U.S. edition of the Financial Times.
Fox News Channel's managing editor of business news, Neil Cavuto, is likely to spearhead much of the news coverage. Just yesterday, Mr. Cavuto interviewed NBC Chairman Bob Wright on his show, "Your World," and asked if CNBC would be merged with MSNBC or sold. Mr. Wright said the channels were in good shape and said the real focus is NBC's prime time.
Of course, Fox News Business has already had a few false starts. It's been two years since Mr. Murdoch first floated the idea of launching a Fox News Channel spinoff. A report in The Wall Street Journal last June suggested that a deal was close with Time Warner and that the channel was slated for launch in the first half of 2006. Since then, executives at Fox News have consistently refused to acknowledge that the channel would even draw a breath of airtime until distribution was in hand.