Greatest television story of the year was, of course, the seemingly endless Presidential election. Hillary or Barack? Barack or Hillary? McCain comes back. Iowa, New Hampshire Michigan, Florida. The conventions, the balloons, more speeches, the debates, and polls. Tons of polls. Battleground states, Chuck Todd, Allen County, Indiana. It was the best serial television out there.
And then it was over. No, not on November 4th. That was just the formality. Sometime in late September, when banks were collapsing, the Dow was falling, and bailouts became the trend, it was over. And, as I would with any television serial that becomes predictable, I went to change the channel. But change it to what? I’d already sampled broadcast’s fall offerings and set the DVR accordingly. Cable was in a quiet period, with few premieres kicking in. Without CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, I was missing that comfort channel to go to in-between my standard viewing.
And then I came across CNBC. With the economy in turmoil, it seemed like a good place to check out. Low channel number, easy to find. A quick peek for the stock market numbers turned into a longer look, which eventually became appointment viewing. Mark Haines and Erin Burnett get me started for the day. Maria Bartiromo closes it out. Jim Cramer bulls his way into my home and Larry Kudlow takes me right up to prime time. My favorite is probably Rick Santelli out of Chicago. Always smiling, even when financial disaster looms.
Like learning a foreign language, following the parade of hosts and analysts in their rapid fire approach to disseminating financial news takes some time. I still confuse LIBOR with mythical Greek characters. (Turns out it’s the London InterBank Offered Rate. Who knew?) Mark to Market strikes me as a nursery rhyme, not an accounting method. But I have gotten better with the Dow Futures, short selling, and hedge funds. I love how everyone refers to the “the market”, as living entity. “The Market” doesn’t have any confidence in the reports coming out of Detroit. “The Market” is reacting to Obama’s pick for Treasury. “The Market” prefers commodities over technology this week.
So that’s the content, but what about the television? It’s a refreshing experience. There’s a consistency across the entire day that one rarely finds with a targeted network. The hosts change, the analysts rotate, different programs come and go throughout the day, but the tone and approach have a familiarity that breeds comfort and ultimately, loyalty. Most remarkable, there’s an informality in the execution that can be found everywhere. Erin Burnett always glancing off at the numbers as Mark Raines talks about the market open. The entire team from POWER LUNCH working on their laptops while commenting on the midday news. Maria Bartiromo, just wandering off to uncover an end of the day rush on a stock, leaving her colleague to carry the show for a few moments. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. And it works.
They know their audience well. The immediacy of the market and the intricate complexities of the economy demand a matching approach in the television reporting. The floor of the NYSE is organized chaos. If it gets a little hectic on the program as well, that’s OK. And yet, despite the informal appearance, the content is of the highest quality. The reporters are at the top of their game. The analysts connect the economic dots in ways I could have never imagined. Jim Cramer’s reservoir of knowledge on the most obscure stocks is frightening. Morning to night, the on-air talent exudes a calm confidence that leaves the viewer feeling pretty good about their time spent.
A focused brand, consistent programming execution, understanding the core audience, credibility. Characteristics that make a channel work. There are more than a few networks that need some help in those areas. Not this one. CNBC has it down.
For me, the proof comes at the closing bell on the floor of the NYSE. When Maria says, “It’s 4pm; do you know where your money is?” Now I do.