Neil Cavuto Wants Your Business

Despite soft ratings, the svp of Fox Business Network and FNC remains confident he can best rivals

Neil Cavuto is in a unique position. As senior vice president for Fox News Channel and its ratings-challenged sibling network, Fox Business Network, Cavuto is in a position to see just how the two networks differ in their goals and tone. Adweek caught up with Cavuto to talk about those differences and why people should choose Fox Business over its rivals.

Adweek: How do you compare your role at Fox Business News with your work for Fox News Channel?

We’re not really red or blue about it; we’re green. We follow the money. We follow it as we did under President Bush and the bailouts. We were, early on, very critical of those, looking at all sides. The promises that couldn’t possibly be realized in the middle of a meltdown. And we continued that with this administration.

What do you think about your competitors’ business coverage?

They can talk the talk, but they can’t walk the walk. If you’re going to be Bloomberg or CNBC and sponsor a presidential debate and you’re not even going to stay up late to give the Iowa caucus results or commit yourself nonstop to South Carolina or cover a debt downgrade post the market hours, either with the United States last summer or much of Europe, and still say you’re all business all the time, you’re lying through your teeth. We may be young and in half the homes and the upstart, but we know what we are.

What is that exactly?

I have a cardinal rule with my staff: We don’t use jargon. We don’t use acronyms. We don’t assume the audience has this down pat. We don’t try to check with our banker and broker contacts [to see] whether an interview impressed them. I’d sooner make an inroad with my mother-in-law. The rap against business journalists is that we deliberately try to sound like the smartest kid in the class. I can tell you, I was not. FBN is like a business field of dreams. If you build it, they will come. I’m not smart enough to know when they will come. I’m waiting. But I’m impressed by the results we’ve seen.

Is there room for the same kind of voice Fox News Channel carved out for itself in the world business reporting?

I just finished reading Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs. I think it’s fair to say that Steve was not a fan of Fox. But one of the things I admired about him was, he came up with the campaign, “Be Different.” And one of the edicts I had when I first came here from CNBC was, I was competing against my old friends and colleagues. So my mantra was then, whatever CNBC is doing, don’t. Whatever they’re leading with, don’t.

What about the ratings? They haven’t been stellar.

The fact of the matter is, we’re barely four years into this. You gotta keep in mind that [our] competitors have been doing this close to a quarter of a century. I remember Fox News starting out with the same feeling. I don’t know what the magic moment will be, but I do know that when people have been exposed to Fox Business, invariably, they’re drawn to us. They come to us.

So the reason to come to Fox Business rather than stay with CNBC is what?

We’re interesting. They’re boring. And they look like they’re having a miserable time. You look at our people—they’re engaged, they know they’re in an uphill battle, but they really feel confident they can do it. I remember that feeling distinctly in the early days of Fox News. It’s déjà vu all over again.