A Blog by Jonathan Low


Sep 2, 2013

Why Doesn't Anyone Watch Business TV Anymore?

Business TV was so 2008. Crises. Crashes. Corruption. Self-dealing. Bail-outs. From the perspective of TV news it was like People magazine meets America's Most Wanted with a dash of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Money honeys. Chatterbunnies. Business was sexy in a slightly kinky, geekish sort of way. Assuming you are turned on by numbers and  legal boiler plate.

It was all pretty entertaining, putting aside for a moment the fact that one generation lost its life savings and another watched its future prospects disappear. But recently the business TV business has plunged to previously unforeseen depths. Viewership is plummeting and the associated stock prices of the media companies that own the shows, networks and channels are following them down.

The internet has something to do with it: people now get all the updates they need on their Androids or iPhones - with personalized analyses attached, depending on what apps you download and how much time you spend programming them. There has also been a change of social outlook, however. While the equity markets have been up, the number of investors participating hasn't come close to their pre-crash levels. Some people are tapped out: they lost what they had. Others simply dont trust the markets, belatedly recognizing that it is a rigged game favoring insiders with the scale to get early peeks at the trends through their powerful computerized trading systems and the decline of regulatory authority.

There may also be a dawning recognition that listening to some media-trained corporate suit natter on about the impact of growth in the South Asian betel nut market on his third quarter PE just isnt that interesting. And perhaps that's the best news of all. Because it may just be that if business returns to being what it has always been - a way to make a living - and ceases to be a dominant cultural imperative, society may yet reorder its priorities. JL

Kevin Roose comments in New York magazine:

As a result of the recovery and the relative dearth of juicy financial news out there, the entire business-news apparatus is falling apart.
While 2008 and 2009 were horrible years for the financial industry and the economy at large, they were indisputably great for business news organizations that got to cover the wreckage. The backdrop of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression led to a golden age of American business journalism, in which every day heralded multiple huge stories. Banks going under! Billion-dollar bailouts! Lawsuits! Congressional hearings!
Now Wall Street is boring. Sure, there is the occasional outrage, but most of the financial sector's sharp edges have been sanded down, its eccentricities and peccadilloes ironed out by five years of regulation and magnifying-glass public scrutiny. Today, a day of financial news might include a scoop about Dodd-Frank implementation (zzz), an update on the race for the Federal Reserve chairmanship (zzzzzzz), or maybe a scaremongering segment about another housing bubble (zzzwake up, check Zillow, see that homes are still below 2006 prices, put head back on pillow — zzzzzzzzzz).
CNBC, the market leader in all things stock-y, has seen its ratings slide to the lowest level in two decades, according to the Post.
It's not just CNBC. Fox Business News, CNBC's plucky upstart competitor, is also experiencing a viewership decline in most of its programming hours. And although ratings figures for Bloomberg TV aren't readily available, it's safe to say that the network's "strategic repositioning" to focus on digital video means that not all is well in analog-land.
By traditional metrics, ratings for business TV shouldn't be dropping now. The stock market is booming, home values are up, and as ordinary Joes and Janes watch their 401(k)s grow and get interested in making investments again, shows like Mad Money — where Jim Cramer screams at viewers about which stocks to buy and which to sell — are well positioned to capture their interest. And yet, nobody is watching. That's probably a good thing. Mom-and-pop investors really shouldn't be buying stocks, and shows that encourage them to compete with information-advantaged professional investors are almost always inviting them to lose money.
Still, even though the nation's (relative) prosperity and calm since 2011 or so has been great for most of us, it's made it a very bad time to be a CNBC executive. Short of praying for another recession, or rolling out Closing Bell With Miley Cyrus, there's nothing much they can do to improve their fortunes.


Post a Comment