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Is Two Too Much?

December 16, 1990|DANIEL CERONE

Is there room for two networks that specialize in business and financial news? "Let's put it this way," New York financial analyst Mark Riely said, "I don't think cable operators feel that in the midst of channel scarcity it's the most productive thing to have two duplicate services."

Ratings from the A.C. Nielsen Co. show that FNN has the edge over CNBC during the business day, but CNBC pulls in slightly more viewers at night. FNN's afternoon rating is .3, meaning that with 35.4 million subscribers an estimated 106,200 of them flip to the station at some point in the day. During roughly the same time, CNBC draws 33,400 viewers nationally based on a .2 rating in 16.7 million homes.

Some cable operators offer both networks. West Valley Cablevision in Chatsworth carries CNBC full-time, but FNN only during the day, switching to Prime Ticket at night. "The two are competitors in a sense," general manager Tom Belcher said. "But FNN is still more for the hard financial person. CNBC is more attuned to the everyday consumer, who may or may not be involved with the stock market."

But, Joyce Newman, a television producer for the nonprofit Consumer's Union, suggests that a consumer-oriented cable network has its limitations. "We take an approach on product stories," she said. "CNBC is not going to do that sort of consumer story. It's not in their best interest because they need advertisers."

In the long run, Riely said, CNBC's real threat may not be FNN at all. "There are some in the industry, including Ted Turner, who believe that CNBC will never find a way to be profitable in the financial news service, not with FNN as a competitor," he said. "CNBC will have to turn to broader news, and that makes CNN its major competitor."

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