By Jon Friedman | Jon Friedmans Media Matrix November 19, 2013 at 1:15PM
The popular CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo can boost the fortunes of the Fox News Channel just as much as she can help the ratings of the Fox Business Network.
Bartiromo won't come cheap to Fox. She is a one-woman industry, thanks to her exposure at CNBC and other media work. Fox will expect her to boost ratings on day one on the business channel and provide additional credibility for Fox News. The combination of anchors Bartiromo and Fox's own respected journalist Neil Cavuto, himself a former CNBC employee, will provide a strong one-two punch.
Fox Business needs something like this to bring attention to its product. It has labored in the shadow of CNBC since its inception. Many of its journalists, such as Charlie Gasparino, Melissa Francis, Stuart Varney and Liz Claman are also former CNBCers. They do good work and they know their stuff -- I've appeared as a guest on Fox Business often enough to know that much -- but they've had to thwart CNBC to attractlarge number of viewers.
What's it in for Fox News? Fox has been the cable-news television ratings leader for what seems like forever. That's how powerful it is in the lucrative industry.
But lately, CNN has shown a renewed vitality under the command of Jeff Zucker, by hiring high-profile journalists. CNN recently recruited media reporter Brian Stelter form the New York Times to host its Sunday morning media-centric show "Reliable Sources" and strengthen CNN.com with his reporting.
While Fox continues to lead the field, parent Twenty First Century Fox and channel chief Roger Ailes are taking no chances of CNN staging a ratings comeback at its expense. CNN has made several splashy hires to add to its news coverage, such as ABC News refugees Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo.
Now Fox has trumped its rival with the reported arrival of Bartiromo. The Drudge Report broke the news on Monday night that Bartiromo, whose contract is set to expire on Nov. 24, is headed to Fox. Read more here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/19/entertainment-us-cnbc-bartiromo-idUSBRE9AI01X20131119
There is another intriguing point here: Can Kelly Evans thrive in the inevitable role as the new "Money Honey" of CNBC? My money is on Evans to be the on-air journalist selected by CNBC to succeed Bartiromo as a face of the network.
CNBC will be betting that Evans can make audiences forget about Bartiromo's reign as the queen of TV business news. It's similar to what happens in big-time sports when a star player shows signs of aging and the team moves to replace the icon with someone younger as the new face of the franchise. My take on the story for Esquire.com: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/bartiromo-evans-cnbc?click=feed
In recent years, she has emerged as a senior figure on CNBC, whose journalistic gravitas exceeded her rusting sex-kitten media-friendly image. Several years ago, Bartiromo also played center stage amid a media storm when she was accused of accepting a ride on a corporate jet. Bartiromo and CNBC denied any wrongdoing on her part.
That was an intriguing time, as it coincided with the emergence of the Fox Business Network, also headed by Ailes. He had been the boss of CNBC in the early 1990s and was said to covet Bartiromo for Fox Business, as a way to give the new business channel instant credibility. CNBC, perhaps fearing that Bartiromo would jump to join Fox and Ailes, gamely stood by her during a difficult time. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/01/24/citigroup-and-cnbc-scandal/
Clearly CNBC is every bit as dominant in its area of television news as Fox News is in its sphere. Fox Business has failed to dent CNBC in its six years on the air and it would rather buy than build talent. It probably has no choice. Fox Business' best shot at throwing a scare into CNBC exists with Bartiromo's widely reported arrival.
Further, CNBC has a lot on the line. It is a cash cow for its current corporate owner, Comcast. Can CNBC flourish without its best known anchor? CNBC has a deep bench of popular anchors and reporters -- led by Evans -- and it can create new stars to create a new version of a 2013 Money Honey.
It will be a key question: What will prove to be more dominant in the digital age, the brand or the personality? We've seen NBC Nightly News anchors Tom Brokaw and then Brian Williams propel that network past CBS. Lately, ABC's breakfast hour Good Morning America has surged past NBC's Today on occasion, thanks to the rise of ABC's Robin Roberts and the controversy swirling around NBC's Matt Lauer in the public's eyes.
The viewing public is notoriously fickle. It will be fascinating for us to watch how this high-stakes poker game unfolds between Fox and CNBC.