Few 'Coos' for Murdoch's Fox Biz Babe

07 January 2008

NEW YORK: Despite an abundance of parental affection, lavish pre-natal care and a birthright even Caligula might have envied, there's not a whole lotta cooing around the crib of News Corporation's latest llittle bundle of joy, Fox Business Network.

Launched October 15 last year, the network's average audience each weekday from launch through December 14 was reportedly a meager 6,300 - so low it fails to meet Nielsen Media Research's minimal measurement criteria.

Whereas the audience for FBN's main rival CNBC, the target of many sneers from within Camp Murdoch, averaged 283,000 - forty-five times that so far achieved by Fox.

But the Fox viewing data is not official. Nielsen has not released the figures publicly and refuses to confirm or deny them, although the data has been seen by insiders who revealed the numbers to the New York Times on condition of anonymity.

Nielsen's Gary Holmes did, however, tell the newspaper that FBN would need to reach a minimum threshold of 35,000 viewers - equivalent to one-tenth of a ratings point - before the Fox data will pass into the public domain.

It would be a grave mistake, however, to write off FBN as a flash in the pan, a mere vanity venture on the part of NewsCorp's ageing patriarch.

Students of Keith Rupert Murdoch's business methods since he first emerged onto the world stage in 1968 to acquire Britain's News of the World - then the planet's top-selling English language newspaper with a weekly circulation of 8.4 million - know that his patience is as legendary as his shareholders' pockets are deep.

Time and again, Murdoch has nursed fledgling ventures such as BSkyB from mewling, puking infancy in 1990, feeding it moolah and the corpses of rivals until it reached maturity as 800-pound gorilla at the end of that decade.

He has lavished similar fiscal patience on other new ventures and ailing acquisitions such as DirecTV, The Times of London and the New York Post.

Despite its inauspicious start, only fools and ill-wishers would write-off Fox Business yet awhile.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff