Ringing a New Bell

MARIA BARTIROMO OF FOX NEWS STEERS THE TALK BACK TO THE ECONOMY
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After 20 years on CNBC, where she anchored 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 this year joined Fox Business Network and Fox News Channel. She launched weekday market show Opening Bell With Maria Bartiromo on FBN on Feb. 24, and then bowed Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo on FNC. The latter’s March 30 debut averaged 1.08 million viewers, more than doubling the audience of CNN and MSNBC and nearly matching that feat in the so-called news demographic of adults 25 to 54. Multichannel.com news editor Mike Reynolds recently spoke with Bartiromo about her move to Fox and the new series. An edited transcript follows.

MCN: What has the transition been like?

Maria Bartiromo: The [weekday] show is similar because it’s a market show, two hours, live. The Sunday show has been just a new, energizing, refreshing thing for me. I find that everyone is working really hard here. They know they’re No. 1, they are busy, they’re going to keep being No. 1 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.

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. 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 as a Sunday show and I brought it to [Fox News president] 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 fi ve 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 at the same time.

MB: Right. Well, I was under pressure to have four and five people on at once. In the ’90s, it was all about the stock market; it was dot-com boom and then dot-com 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 15 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 Ailes 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 20 years ago. I mean he saw something in me, he believed in me, and I have always had the highest regard for him.

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 [Face the Nation]. If John Kerry decides to 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 Obamacare so we had Toby Cosgrove, the CEO of Cleveland Clinic. Last week, 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.

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