Fox Business Turns Five

By Alex Weprin 

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Five years ago this week, Fox Business Network launched in some 30 million homes, and with a big party at the Met. We thought it was time to take a look back.

Today, the channel is in nearly 60 million homes (although on digital tiers outside of New York City) Update: According to Nielsen, it is now in 68 million households, and according to News Corp. COO Chase Carey it is no longer losing money. Aside from a strong performance by Lou Dobbs at 7 PM, and some non-business specials like the political conventions, the network is far behind CNBC in just about every daypart. That said, many programs, like “Varney & Co.” have had some daily wins against the more widely-distributed CNBC competition.

While there have been stalwarts of the channel (Neil Cavuto comes to mind), there have been a flurry of changes too, as is typical in the TV universe. Alexis Glick, who was there from the beginning, left two years after it launched. “Imus in the Morning” was added to the lineup, but the relationship between the provocative radio host and FBN management has ranged from cool to sour, at least on-air. That said, Imus has never said anything negative about Roger Ailes on-air.

In 2010, the network launched a new slogan and branding campaign, promoting “The Power to Prosper.”

“Happy Hour,” touted before the network launched, was abruptly canceled in early 2010, while earlier this year the channel retooled its entire primetime lineup, and urged staffers to focus less on politics, and more on business to help differentiate it from its older sibling. Along the way it added a number of anchors, like Melissa Francis, Charlie Gasparino, Gerri Willis and, oh yeah, a guy named Dobbs.

The channel was finally rated by Nielsen early last year, following speculation that the channel could become rated dating back to 2009.

There is no denying now that FBN launched at a tough time. When Fox News debuted, cable subscribers were still growing, and it filled a niche that was not being served: people who wanted a conservative alternative. FBN launched right as cable subscriber growth began to sputter, and as Wall Street became a villain in the eyes of many Americans, who saw government funds funneled to corporate executives and banks.

While many media observers suspected that the 2007 financial crisis would be a boon to the business networks, it failed to make a significant impact.

Given the paucity of new networks that have launched in recent years, the fact that the channel was able to go from zero to 60 million homes is worth noting. The last high-profile cable channel to launch was OWN, and it took over existing channel space from Discovery Health, getting it into 10s of millions of homes instantly.