Monday, August 24, 2009
Media: Imus - Fox Business blues
In media, like politics, the jokes write themselves.
Did you hear the latest about Don Imus?
Well, first things first.
Let me preface this with a fact.
Yes, Don Imus is still alive. No, those shows aren’t posthumous reruns that are on the few, mostly Citadel o & o's, radio stations that carry him.
Imus just does the same old show every day. He’s talk radio’s version of blah, blah, woof, woof.
Now no one’s saying they don’t know cheap – but if Citadel CEO Farid Suleman and his sidekick Judy Ellis could really squeeze a nickel until the buffalo choked, they’d have Imus voice-track one morning show and run it for an entire week. Scratch that. You could go for a whole month.
Believe me. His audience? No one will notice. No one will care. Is there one market where he’s even in the top ten? Who or what is his audience anyway? Does anyone know of someone who actually listens to Imus?
Imus’ radio show is also simulcast for television – and this is the news at hand.
The way-past-his-prime Don Imus is swapping one low-rated cable TV channel simulcast for another.
He’s leaving Rural Free Delivery TV (RFD-TV), which bills itself as “Rural America’s most important network” for the Fox Business Network (FBN), which will now video simulcast his radio show.
RFD-TV’s programming is targeted to the U.S. farmer and cattle raiser. It carries a mix of farm news and reports and classic country music programming, comparable to the old Nashville Network cable channel. They even carry a show that auctions cattle that look like Don Imus.
Its distribution is limited to the upper tier channel placement at Dish Network and DirecTV satellite systems, Mediacom, Charter Communications, NCTC cable cooperative, and a few independent rural cable companies.
According to Nielsen, RFD-TV averaged 49,000 viewers year-to-date. RFD is available to 40 million households.
Chances are you’ve heard of but never watched FBN. It’s is the “other business cable/satellite network,” launched by Rupert Murdoch in October 2007.
The ratings-challenged channel is available to almost 50 million homes nationwide, compared to over 90 million for rival CNBC.
With exception to Manhattan, FBN is in the optional upper digital tier of cable and satellite systems.
Upper tier channels cost subscribers of cable and satellite TV additional fees to receive.
According to June 2009 figures from Nielsen Media Research show that FBN was watched by an average of 21,000 people nationally from 5 AM to 9 PM. That’s 11 times smaller than that of CNBC’s audience in the same daypart.
Imus is not trading the farmhouse for the penthouse. Try under the bridge.
Bloomberg News, the original business channel, which is also available in real-time on line, is unrated by Nielsen.
At the time of its launch, in October 2007, Fox hyped FBN as a younger, sexier, edgier business channel – or CNBC with raging hormones – designed to capture the latter’s younger, more active end of the business channel viewing demo.
To give FBN some Wall Street cred – and at least one person that looked over 25 - Murdoch lured long-time CNBC "Red Fox" Liz Clayman to his den.
The only stipulation was that her skirts had to be even shorter than Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends’ Gretchen “the Flasher” Carlson’s.
Hoping for a cable channel cat fight, FBN pitted Liz opposite Money Honey Maria Bartiromo in the 2-5 PM afternoon drive slot. But CNBC viewers were more engrossed in their own in-house Betty/Veronica, Mary Ann/Ginger assessment of Maria and Erin Burnett.
Liz Claman – even calling in favors from blue-chip guests like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates – quickly became forgotten but not gone.
Now, it appears FBN has given up on being the MTV or G4 of business channels. It’s now going in the exact opposite direction by handing over morning drive to an ancient artifact whose appeal is strictly octogenarian-plus.
What Stonehenge is to the Druids, FBN is to has-beens.
“We have to teach people we exist, and then convince them to find us,” sayeth Kevin Magee, the executive vice president for FBN. “And then once they do those two things, they have to watch us.”
Whatever you say, Kevin. Unless you’re strictly looking for a blip in assisted living and nursing homes, your chance of Imus increasing FBN numbers is slim to none.
There must be an addendum on all Fox News and Business contracts that reads, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”