'Biz Shows' Drawing Wider TV Audience

By Schifrin, Matthew A. | American Banker, March 16, 1984 | Go to article overview

'Biz Shows' Drawing Wider TV Audience


Schifrin, Matthew A., American Banker


Ronald Silver is a New York City high school administrator approaching retirement who lives on suburban Long Island with his wife and two dogs. The Silvers, whose children are grown and married, enjoy an annual income in excess of $55,000, a summer home in New England, and have over $25,000 invested in a variety of financial securities.

On any normal evening, from 4:30 to 7:30, you might expect to find Mr. Silver relaxing in the den after a hard day's work, reading the paper, or perhaps taking a nap. Instead, you are likely to find Mr. Silver's eyes glued to the television set, catching up on how his investments in stocks, gold, and municipal bonds fared that day so that he can size up the investment outlook for the coming days.

Typical of many other Americans in his financial position, Mr. Silver is tuning into one of television's many new business-oriented programs, designed to educate as well as inform viewers of happenings in the world of business and finance.

Once considered too dry for television broadcast, business news programs have caught the eye of a growing number of Americans. According to analysts and industry professionals, these viewers are demanding sophisticated programs that will keep them abreast of current trends in business and the economy, so that they, too, can make wise decisions about money management and investments.

Until recently, the traditional commercial television networks rarely ventured into business and financial news coverage, hesistantly allowing 30 seconds or a minute during each broadcast for coverage of the day's business events. News of the financial markets and business was inherently too complicated for the mass audience network television was serving, and was better suited to the various newspapers and magazines of the trade. The networks reasoned that the public would rather see Michael Jackson being rushed to a hospital after burning a few locks of hair than watch a newscaster explain the developments in a hundred million dollar proxy fight taking place in the oil industry. An Area of Growth

Business programming on the smaller networks and cable has caught fire as an area of growth within the broadcasting and cable television industry, offering a variety of shows ranging from magazine-style and interview shows that explore broad trends in the economy, to programs designed as markets monitors, that alert the serious investor of market-relevant news as it happens. Although none of the programs or networks has proven profitable as yet, most attribute this to their new youthfulness in the field and note that increasing popularity will translate into advertiser support and profitability by yearend.

Many industry executives feel that the popularity of business programs has grown out of a societal change that has produced a more conservative, informed, and interested populace that is especially concerned with information affecting their jobs and how they manage their money.

Descendants of Louis Rukeyser's market talk show, Wall Street Week, these "narrowly casted" programs have multiplied to numbers exceeding 20 at present. The most popular of the lot are seen across the nation on cable stations, independent networks, and public television stations. Cable television houses four daily programs, the U.S. Chamber of Commercehs Biznet News Today, ESPN's Business Times, Cable News Network's Moneyline, and Financial News Network, while Dow Jones' weekly entry, the Wall Street Journal Report, is brought to air by Independent Network News, a division of WPIX in New York. All of those are advertiser-supported; one that isn't, Nightly Business Report, is produced in Miami by WPBT and broadcast over 261 affiliated public television stations.

To no one's surprise, these shows are enjoying success because they have developed programming that has proven popular among more affluent Americans. The top networks have traditionally neglected this segment in their programming, designing shows with more of a mass appeal. …

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