After 20 years on CNBC where she anchored the Closing Bell and gained fame for becoming the first journalist to report live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for Squawk Box, Maria Bartiromo joined Fox Business Network and Fox News Channel. She launched weekday market show Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo on FBN on Feb. 24, and bowed Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo March 30 on FNC before 1.08 million viewers, more than doubling the audience of CNN and MSNBC and nearly matching that feat in the news demo of adults 25 to 54. Multichannel.com news editor Mike Reynolds recently sat down with Bartiromo to discuss her shows’ early performance and the move to Fox, where she has been reunited with an old friend, Fox News president Roger Ailes. An edited transcript follows.
Multichannel News: What’s the transition been like?
Maria Bartiromo: The show is similar because it's a market show, two hours, live. The Sunday show has been just a complete, new, energizing, refreshing thing for me.
I find that everyone is working really hard here. They know they're number one and they're busy. They're going to keep being number one and they’re doing their job. But everybody has been unbelievable; they've really made it easy for me, going out of their way to welcome me.
Shepherd Smith sent me flowers. Bill O'Reilly took me in his office and just chatted me up. Judge Napolitano said ; “When can you have coffee?” They are all - Jeanine Pirro as well - they are all being so wonderful to me. So I think that the warmth that they have shown me has been just so great and I appreciate them all.
MCN: It's good to work on Sundays?
MB: I love it. I mean the show, I love. It's hard working six days, I guess. But I just got the numbers and we beat CNN and MSNBC combined every week since we launched. So I feel like that tells you right there that there is an appetite for economic angles and business information on a Sunday.
MCN: You identified that as an opportunity?
MB: Yeah, it was. I like to watch TV on a Sunday morning with my coffee. I used to just flip around watching who everybody had. And what I realized was that while you see all these politicos talking about the issues of the country -- whether it's the economy, whether it's foreign policy -- very few of them actually connect the dots and actually say and identify the fact that it's about jobs.
And so I was talking about that in a Sunday show and I brought it to Roger [Ailes] and he loved the idea and said business can be part of the solution. And I said, right, I agree. So with his help and with [FNC EVP of programming] Bill Shine and [FNC EVP of news] Michael Clemente offering their visions, together we came up with this idea.
MCN: On Sunday and overall, you're taking a longer-form approach?
MB: Increasingly over the last couple of years, what I have heard from CEOs and guests is the fact that it feels too short term. What I kept hearing from them was things like, 'Maria, you had me on for five minutes, I came all the way here and it's a complex story and I can't really tell my story in five minutes.'
MCN: Plus, you have three other guests on at the same time.
MB: Right. Well I was under pressure to have four and five people on at once. In the Nineties, it was all about the stock market; it was dotcom boom and then dotcom bust. People wanted these short, sound-bite situations.
But I think over time audiences have changed, frankly. I think they want analysis, they want perspective
So we're definitely trying to have guests on for longer. We don't have a set time. I mean I had James Gorman, the CEO of Morgan Stanley on for an hour. I had Steve Schwartzman, the CEO of Blackstone Group, on for an hour. But then we had John Donahoe, the CEO of eBay, we had him on for fifteen minutes. You don’t do everyone for an hour.
MCN: Is part of the appeal here to help boost Fox Business Network?
MB: Fox News Channel is the leading cable network, so I've got that support behind me for the Sunday show and that's phenomenal. Fox Business Network is a little more of a build-out situation and I know that and it's not going to happen overnight. This team has done a great job in six years. I'm here because I want to help them build this network, because I think people do want an alternative. For Fox Business Network, I feel like I have already had incredible success because I have had guests on the air that have never walked through the building. I mean I am having the highest of the high in corporate America on the show every day. So I think as long as we do a good show, the numbers come later.
MCN: What about working with Roger again?
MB: One of the reasons I came here frankly was because I did want to reunite with Roger Ailes. I like him a lot. He is very smart, very savvy about branding, about television. And he put me on the air twenty years ago. I mean he saw something in me, he believed in me, and I have always had the highest regard for him.
I think another reason was because I've seen Bill (Shine) and Michael Clemente and Brian Jones in action. Kevin Magee used to work with me as well at CNBC, and he’s running Fox Business Network. I like him a lot. When I looked at the overall management team, I thought these guys know what they're doing.
MCN: The way contracts work, you had sixty days between jobs. How did you handle that?
MB: Well, it was tough. I like to work. In twenty years I must have taken two weeks off at a clip, right? I mean do you ever take more than two weeks off? No one does.
Even knowing that there was a chance I was going to leave, I was booking December and I shouldn't have. But I had a commitment to Governor Cuomo, who asked me if I would moderate his Regional Economic Awards Program in Albany. I had a commitment that I said I would go to the White House Holiday Dinner.
Then it was the holidays. I should have, in retrospect, gone away to the Caribbean, put my feet up and not done anything, but I didn't. Then I finally realized okay, I am going to be working soon…
MCN: For a long time…
MB: I better do something because I'm not going to have a vacation. So I went to Milan with my sister. We went to La Traviata at La Scala Opera House. Then we went to see the Last Supper painting, which is absolutely spectacular. And then I went hiking with my husband in Arizona for two and a half weeks with my husband, So I did have some time off. And then I went to Davos that was also in my schedule.
And I’m really happy I did because it was very important for me to be able to communicate to people why I left and why I was starting a new job.
MCN: What big names are you trying to get for Sunday?
MB: I'm trying to look at the issues of the day with an economic angle. That's really my mandate. And so I'm not going to take the guests that are doing their rounds on Meet the Press and Bob Schieffer. If John Kerry decides do the rounds, we probably won't take him because I am not going to do the same show that's out there right now, I want to do everything through an economic lens.
So the first program we led with [economist] Larry Summers, and his take on the economy, his take on the Fed. Then, it was the weekend of Obama Care so then we had Toby Cosgrove, the CEO of Cleveland Clinic. We had [former director of the National Economic Council] Gene Sperling. So I'm trying to get in every show a policy maker, yes, and a regulator, yes, but also an economic person, whether it's a CEO or someone who was the Treasury Secretary.
So I don't really have these must-gets in my head. I am trying to lean into the week ahead. We were the first show to show [author] Michael Lewis's quote, ‘The market is rigged,’ and have Larry Summers react to it and then that following week everybody was going crazy over it.
MCN: So, it’s an advantage playing on Sunday?
MB: Yeah, I think so.