By now you have heard the announcement that Dow Jones is ceding its 50% ownership stakes in CNBC Asia and CNBC Europe to NBC Universal. The announcement added that the company will continue its existing licensing arrangement with CNBC in the US. This agreement is for Dow Jones to provide "content" for the channel.
But for how long?
I don't know the details or if there's a contract that Dow Jones is fulfilling. It doesn't make sense to buy their way out at this time, if so, because appearing on CNBC is a form of promotion for The Wall Street Journal and Barron's.
Still, I can't help but wonder if the new FOX Business Channel (scheduled to launch in March 2006) is somehow factoring into Dow Jones' thinking.
Yes, I understand that Dow Jones is ending its international partnership with CNBC. And that it's concentrating on the recent MarketWatch purchase and the coming launch of the new Saturday Journal edition.
But if I were them, I'd eventually want the freedom of having my people appearing regularly (read: daily) on any business channel Roger Ailes oversees. He's the reason FOX News has been trashing CNN and MSNBC in the ratings, and I bet he'll be doing the same to CNBC in the US soon enough. CNBC has never regained the credibility it lost from shamelessly cheering on the tech boom. Heck, if you had a dollar for every time someone has derided it as "bubblevision" you could start your own channel.
So Dow Jones getting its folks on the FOX Business Channel would be a winner strictly from a business point of view. The fact that Dow Jones' editorial views are more aligned with FOX than NBC would be icing on the cake.
And let's look at this from FOX's perspective. If you were launching a 24-hour business channel, you would be sensible to have a major outside entity helping you provide content. There can't be that many blond bombshell money managers to interview, after all (though we probably shouldn't sell Rupert Murdoch short in that quest).
FOX will surely continue working with Forbes, further utilizing Steve Forbes and his roster of editors and journalists in programming the new channel.
Would that be enough?
Probably not. Especially when you consider that the world's signature business publications are The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. The Journal is bigger in the US, so it's the better fit with an American business channel. Yet, barring that, having the FT provide content for you is nothing to sneeze at.
And, hey, here's a crazy thought. Murdoch owns loads of newspapers. But he doesn't own a world-class business publication. Pearson, the education publisher that owns the FT, has been rumored for some time to be considering selling the paper. Would Murdoch buy it? He could with the idea of increasing its profitability (some analysts think Pearson isn't getting everything out of the paper it should) and also teaming it with his new business channel.
That's not a prediction. And, besides, in a way I'd hate to see it happen. Murdoch has a reputation for dumbing-down the newspapers he buys (see the Times of London). I'm not crazy about the FT increasingly reading like it's pandering to the EU crowd in Brussels, but it's an intelligent publication. And that can be corrected without it being dumbed down.
Dow Jones. CNBC. The FOX Business Channel. Pearson. The Financial Times. And let's not forget Bloomberg Television. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.