TV Network Expands Bloomberg News' Horizon Many news outlets are shrinking in this economy, but Bloomberg News keeps expanding its ambition and reach -- especially with its television network. Touting the quality of its reporting, Bloomberg TV hopes to set itself apart from CNBC and other cable rivals.
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TV Network Expands Bloomberg News' Horizon

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TV Network Expands Bloomberg News' Horizon

TV Network Expands Bloomberg News' Horizon

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

GUY RAZ, host:

For the moment, forget about all the hand-wringing going on inside the news industry about terrible finances.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik brings us this story about Bloomberg News. It's expanding its ambition and reach on a medium it hasn't always taken seriously, television.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Everything is a little different at Bloomberg News. Bloomberg TV anchor Margaret Brennan is trying to explain this to me, as we talk on segments of a padded purple coil that stretches for about 30 feet.

Ms. MARGARET BRENNAN (Anchor, "InBusiness," Bloomberg TV): This apparently a piece of artwork that we're sitting in. I don't know if we're supposed to be sitting in it, but those two guys are sleeping in it.

FOLKENFLIK: Those are probably asleep because staffers feel as if they live here. Bloomberg gives away a lot of food because bosses discourage taking time away from this block-long glass spaceship of an office.

The company's hyper-kinetic pace reflects the metabolism of its founder, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And, holy cow, has Bloomberg News been investing furiously in building up its staff.

On day alone, the overall news service hired four Pulitzer Prize winners away from The Wall Street Journal. Bloomberg News leapt at the chance to buy the money-losing but prestigious BusinessWeek magazine. And Bloomberg's TV network has scooped up journalists from such outlets as ABC, CNN and NPR, in trying to build a slicker television product.

Brennan came over last year from CNBC.

Ms. BRENNAN: It was a gamble. I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to say it was a clear choice. But for me, you know, a year in, I know it was the right choice because I've done a lot in a short period of time. There's a lot more to be done.

FOLKENFLIK: Brennan now anchors a briskly paced show on international business from a studio in the middle of TV newsroom here in New York. She's conversant in Arabic and has hosted from Dubai and Saudi Arabia, as well as Ireland and Davos.

She could have stayed at CNBC, the ratings leader in TV business news, which mints stars like Maria Bartiromo, the original so-called Money Honey. But its viewers are often treated to economics as sport.

(Soundbite of television program)

Unidentified Man #1: All you guys want to cut taxes en route to bringing down the deficit. That's the current...

Unidentified Man #2: No (Unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #3: Stop spending, stop spending, stop spending...

Mr. NORMAN PEARLSTINE (Chief Content Officer, Bloomberg News): It's tempting to join the food fight that sometimes passes for business news, who can scream loudest and so forth.

FOLKENFLIK: Norman Pearlstine is the former top editor of the Wall Street Journal and Time, Inc. He's now chief content officer for Bloomberg News.

Mr. PEARLSTINE: We think there's an audience that is willing and able to be more reflective, and I think our television tries to speak to it.

FOLKENFLIK: Bloomberg has made a lot of money serving precisely that audience. After all, Bloomberg News is an offshoot of Bloomberg's famed financial services business.

The specialized computer terminal called The Bloomberg has been slicing and dicing increasingly sophisticated proprietary data for clients like banks and governments and investment firms for a generation. People pay nearly $20,000 a year for each of 300,000 terminals.

Daniel Gross is the economics columnist for Yahoo Finance. He says the TV network retains the DNA of its parent company.

Mr. DANIEL GROSS (Economics Columnist, Yahoo Finance): CNBC is a lot about, you know, they are seeing their analogs as kind of MSNBC and Fox and CNN, you know, left-right, two sides of an issue. Bloomberg, while it is on cable, stands apart from that because it is a - has more of that Bloomberg mentality.

FOLKENFLIK: Gross says Bloomberg is fighting not for a mass audience but global thought leaders, people who make decisions in the worlds of finance, government and business.

Mr. GROSS: When you're in your business hotel in China or Japan or South Africa or whatever, and you turn on that TV, on that system will be, you know, CNBC Europe or CNBC Asia, as well as Bloomberg TV.

FOLKENFLIK: But right now, Bloomberg has so few American viewers that it doesn't even pay Nielsen to estimate how many are watching.

David Rhodes is a former Fox News executive who is now the head of Bloomberg TV in the U.S.

Mr. DAVID RHODES (Bloomberg Television): Cable news punches above its weight when it comes to its influence. It would be hard not to conclude that from looking at the impact of cable news on media today.

FOLKENFLIK: That's not the way people at Bloomberg used to look at the TV channel. Historically, television was thought of as just another way to remind subscribers of the Bloomberg brand. Rhodes says the channel now has greater journalistic ambitions.

Mr. RHODES: What I'm hoping we can do is breaking news in the space that we cover on television. And I think if we can do that reliably, that's a huge accomplishment.

FOLKENFLIK: Anchor Margaret Brennan could have stayed on a safer path on CNBC. She had plenty of appearances on NBC's "Today" show and MSNBC, and she was clearly on the rise.

Ms. BRENNAN: Is there a trade-off with not being - have some sense of yourself as a trading-room celebrity? I never wanted to be that. I wanted to be someone who could talk to interesting and informed people all the time, and now I have an excuse to do that.

FOLKENFLIK: In doing that, Brennan says she's helping to define the new Bloomberg TV.

David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

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