Business Networks–But Mostly CNBC–See Ratings Boon in Financial Crisis

By Alex Weprin 

The New York TimesBrian Stelter writes about how the cable business networks have seen ratings gains during the financial tumult over the last few weeks. While all three of the channels, Bloomberg TV, Fox Business Network and CNBC have seen gains, the NBCUniversal channel has been the biggest beneficiary.

Through the first two weeks of August, CNBC, a unit of NBC Universal, had on average 378,000 at-home viewers during the New York market hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., up sharply from 224,000 in July.

Fox Business, a unit of the News Corporation, had an average of 107,000 viewers at those hours, up from 76,000 in July. Bloomberg Television is not publicly rated; private ratings indicate that it too had a surge in recent weeks, though its audience is smaller than that of Fox Business.

Despite the growth, Stelter notes that none of the business channels are particularly fond of Nielsen’s ratings, arguing that the core audience they are trying to reach–wealthy traders and Wall St. types–are not counted in the measurement:

It is exceedingly hard to estimate the reach of the business networks. CNBC, despite being dominant, flatly declines to talk about ratings because it says Nielsen’s sample does not count out-of-home viewing or affluent viewers, exactly the kinds of viewers it says it attracts.

The Nielsen ratings nonetheless serve as a barometer of sorts in good business times and bad. CNBC’s at-home audience has not been this big since the so-called flash crash of May 2010, reaffirming that people are once again paying attention to the ups and downs of the markets.