Fox Business Chief Plans New Financial Panel Show

The anchors of Fox Business Network have long delivered the latest business headlines. Now some may be getting ready to debate them, too.

Fox Business is preparing to launch a new discussion program that aims to emulate some of the biggest programing hits in recent years on its sibling, Fox News Channel, where so-called “roundtable” shows have fast become a staple of its schedule. The shows can serve to develop personalities who find themselves leading their own hours within a few years, as has been the case for Greg Gutfeld, who helped launch the late-afternoon program “The Five” and now also leads a late-night program at 11 p.m.

“We have had a ton of success on Fox News side with shows like ‘Outnumbered’ and ‘The Five,’” says Lauren Petterson, the president of Fox Business Network, in an interview, adding: “We want to try and take that format and replicate it on the Fox Business Network, but adding in a heavy dose of business news.”

The project is in the “early-ish stages,” says Petterson, but she hopes to see it launch on the schedule if not this quarter, then by the first quarter of 2023. The show could draw its panelists from among the network’s current roster or introduce new personalities, she says. It remains to be seen whether the program would debut during daytime hours, when Fox Business typically focuses more closely on the stock market, or after the tickers shut down for the day. And its launch, she adds, could spur programming tweaks across the schedule.

Bringing the format to Fox Business represents the latest change for the network under Petterson’s aegis. She took the Fox Business reins in the fall of 2019, after a stint spent managing not only Fox News Channel’s morning programming, but also its talent development. She continues to oversee talent alongside her Fox Business duties.

Petterson’s moves since taking over the outlet have resulted in a boost to ratings, but, like many other TV outlets, Fox Business Network faces headwinds as consumers migrate from traditional TV to other forms of video and information.

Both Fox Business and its main rival, CNBC, are expected to see drops in subscribers and ad revenue between this year and next, according to projections from Kagan, a market-research unit of S&P Global Intelligence. The company sees Fox Business subscribers falling 7.7% in 2023, to 61.1 million, compared with 62.2 million at the end of this year. CNBC’s subscriber base is projected to fall 6%, to 68.5 million, according to Kagan, compared with 72.9 million.

Ad sales are also likely to be affected. Kagan’s estimates call for Fox Business to see advertising revenue drop 4.6% in 2023, to $38.8 million, compared with nearly $40.7 million by the end of 2022. A spokeswoman for Fox Business suggested the network is on track to surpass the 2022 estimate. CNBC’s ad revenue is projected to tumble 4.7% in 2023 according to Kagan, to nearly $197.9 million, compared with $207.6 million in 2022.

Petterson believes Fox Business can broaden its audience by keeping tabs on more than just the stock market. The audience for business news isn’t going to top the size of the crowd seeking out entertainment or broader news, she says, but, “if you want to compete, you can keep cutting the slices smaller and smaller, but the idea when I came over was to build a bigger pizza pie.” That means booking guests like J.P. Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon or Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan but also focusing on issues like managing college debt or a 401K, and how “kitchen table” issues may be affected by Washington policy.

Fox Business used to tackle some of that mission with primetime opinion programing, but Petterson has exited that genre, focusing instead on documentary-style primetime shows that focus on American entrepreneurs and real estate and rely on personalities like Mike Rowe and Stuart Varney. “We have seen from research that once the market closes, it’s hard to hang on to the business viewers,” Petterson says. “They don’t want market coverage in the evening. Fox News Channel owns the opinion space at night, so why would we compete with that?”

The moves have won Fox Business new advertisers ,with Stellantis’ Dodge Ram sponsoring the primetime series “American Built” and bedding company Boll & Branch supporting the real estate series “Mansion Global.” Fox Business has seen audience growth over the course of Petterson’s tenue, particularly in hours anchored by Larry Kudlow and Maria Bartiromo.

Petterson is one of a long line of news executives who were awarded broader duties after toughing it out in the fiercely competitive arena for morning-news. She supervised the company’s “Fox & Friends” franchise for many years before taking the reins at Fox Business. Many of the TV-news sector’s top executive got their start in the A.M., including former CNN chief Jeff Zucker, current CNN head Chris Licht; NBC News President Noah Oppenheim; and former Disney executive Ben Sherwood.

She attributes her acumen to a long tenure in local news. She jumped from producing a news broadcast in Albany to working at New York affiliates of CBS and NBC (where she did production duties for longtime anchors Sue Simmons and Chuck Scarborough), and learned how meaningful local stories can be to area viewers. “Our viewers are not just on the coast. They are not just in New York and L.A. They are everywhere in between,” Petterson says. “If we aren’t meeting them at that place where they live, I think we are not doing our jobs.”

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