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When down is up

Cable business-news channels boomed as Street swooned 4/23/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern

When the stock market plunges, ratings surge for cable TV's real-time financial news channels. The stock drop April 14 and recovery the following Monday brought viewers by the hundreds of thousands to CNBC, CNNfn, and Bloomberg TV.

The Dow and Nasdaq declines brought CNBC its most-watched day ever on Monday, with more than half a million viewers-breaking its previous record, set only two weeks before for the Microsoft antitrust ruling.

CNNfn, in only 14 million homes, is not yet rated by Nielsen, but ratings for programming provided by CNNfn to CNN were up on Friday, including more than 50% for Street Sweep. On CNBC, ratings for its Squawk Box, the network's signature business show, rose 29% over the quarter-to-date norm, to a .6 rating, or 435,000 households, the day the market slipped.

But the broader distribution of business news has led to the charge that the news players themselves are playing a greater role.

William Bolster, CNBC president, responds, "CNBC is more of an exchange model than it is a television model. We really don't report on the market, but put a mirror on what it going on. Our coverage is exactly the same from 9 to 4:30 every day. It's hard-news business. The role we play is no more than any coverage of any kind of event. We're not creating the event. We're a mirror on the market. Our reporting is more of an analysis of what happened when we were showing it happen."