Fox's New Business Network

The blond, professional-looking woman featured in a promotional spot for Fox Business Network—the cable cousin of Fox News Channel that launches on Monday, Oct. 15—is in her 30s, has just bought a two-bedroom condo and happens to be a vice president at a New York financial firm. Still, when it comes to her own money, Christy Schaffner is feeling a bit unmoored. Retirement? Sure, she doesn't "want to work the rest of my life." Investments? "I'm not an expert," she admits. Forget that she works in finance. Schaffner is the kind of person—smart and looking for financial answers—that FBN imagines its viewers to be.

Starting Monday, Rupert Murdoch's newest media outlet is ready to help untangle the financial "clap-trap terminology" that dominates business news. "We have long considered the business television market to be underserved," Murdoch said in a statement, calling the channel "new competition and a new voice to the business news arena." Set to debut in 30 million households, FBN goes head to head with CNBC, the dominant player in cable financial news which gets into about 90 million households. The new network is counting on a new generation—say, the upwardly mobile adult children of its most loyal Fox News viewers—to both tune in and cash in.

For fans of Fox News's style of journalism, FBN will seem familiar. On FBN conservative Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's "No-Spin Zone" becomes David Asman's "Jargon-Free Zone." And if the channel's promotional materials are any indication, viewers can expect the same militaristic lingo that ends up on Fox News. "Fox enters this war, if you will, armed with the five top business shows on television," says host Neil Cavuto in an online ad for FBN.

So what else does the new network have in the wings? News Corp. has kept its programming under wraps until the launch, fearing its ideas will be co-opted by CNBC. While details are in short supply, there are plenty of rumors floating around. For example, will the channel's market wrap-up show be shot in various Wall Street bars? Long-standing gossip that a celeb CEO would get his or her own show got some credence on Friday when FBN signed former HP chief Carly Fiorina.

One thing is for sure: Murdoch is handing Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News a treasure trove of tools to make FBN a success. (Ailes declined to speak to NEWSWEEK.) Chief among them: Dow Jones & Co. and The Wall Street Journal, which News Corp. purchased earlier this year. In the $5 billion deal, Murdoch bought not only the financial newspaper of record, he bought instant credibility for FBN's coverage. One caveat: the Journal is currently bound to CNBC with a deal that prohibits the paper's reporters from appearing on other networks. The deal expires in 2012.

But that glitch isn't likely to go unresolved for long. Either Murdoch will pay to get the Journal out of its contract with CNBC, or he'll find a workaround. Chris Roush, a media analyst and business journalism professor at the University of North Carolina, says the network can capitalize on its Wall Street Journal association from the get-go, albeit circuitously. "Because of CNBC, Wall Street Journal reporters can't go on Fox and talk about business, but they can go on and talk about politics and arts and leisure. And what those reporters will do for Fox is give it credibility," Roush says.

CNBC's far greater distribution doesn't worry Derek Baine, a senior analyst at SNL Kagen, a media research firm in New York. "It's the biggest launch in cable network history, so they've got a nice distribution phase to grow from," Baine says, adding that News Corp. can bundle advertising with its other media properties, selling packages across a variety of the company's platforms. "They're going to be able to sell advertising to their existing base." It typically takes about five years for a cable network to break even, analysts say, but once they get to that point their value increases quickly. "It's worth the effort, for sure," Baine says.

But success isn't guaranteed. While FBN hopes to lure in the Christy Schaffners, it's also aiming for a broader audience. "They're trying to target what they say to mainstream America, but does mainstream America--the secretaries and factory workers--want business news on television when they get home from work?" wonders Roush, noting that CNN tried to do the same thing with CNN Financial News. CNNfn was on the air for nine years before closing down in 2004. "The ironic thing is that the demographic [that Fox is going after] probably needs the most help in terms of their personal finance. But it's also the one that doesn't respond when you give it to them. That's been shown again and again."

At a time when the country's financial confidence is waning, it's hardly the middle class that is expected to start pouring what's left of its paychecks at the end of the week into the financial markets. But that is exactly what FBN aims to change. "Wall Street, Main Street--it's the same," goes one of the channel's catchy slogans. But Fox may have to wait a while to see if its brand of business news can catch on.

Fox's New Business Network | Culture