Fox Business Still Taking On Water

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Fox Business, launched in October 2007, was supposed to air content substantially different enough from rival CNBC to take some of the larger channel’s viewers or, at least, build a viewership of its own.

In early and  mid-2008,  first Reuters and then The Washington Post each published estimates of the Fox Business viewership. Reuters put it at “an estimated 6,000 average weekday viewers.”

The Post also offered fairly detailed numbers writing “For the first three weeks of July, according to Nielsen figures obtained yesterday that have not been publicly released, Fox Business Network is averaging just 8,000 viewers during daytime hours, and 20,000 in prime time.”

Based on 24/7 Wall St. conversations with people with knowledge about recent Fox Business viewership figures, including one former executive with the network, audience numbers have hardly budged in since The Post article eleven months ago. Average hourly viewership runs between 2,000 and 8,000 during most hours from 6 AM to 6 PM. The network’s most watched prime-time shows rarely pull more than 15,000 viewers per hour.

24/7 Wall St. checked what it had been told by sources with Fox Business and the network’s PR department’s reaction was “whoever is telling you this is lying – you’d be wrong if you wrote this and our average is definitely higher than that from the hour breakdowns I’ve seen.”  Fox Business would not say how much “higher” the numbers are.

To make matters worse for the network, the audience at FoxBusiness.com is rapidly eroding. According to online audience measurement service Compete, the network’s website had 1,480,369 unique visitors in March. In May that number dropped to 783,917 only 53% of the figure two months earlier.

Fox Business is clearly in trouble. Its audience is not large enough to be put in the standard Nielsen reporting package. Until it is, Fox can say what it would like about its figures. They are too low to be worth publicizing.

Douglas A. McIntyre