FBN's Kevin Magee Hits Back


As the executive vice president of Fox Business Network, Kevin Magee oversees the channel's day-to-day operations. Like many people at the just-launched channel, Magee is a veteran of CNBC, cable's business news leader in distribution, ratings and revenue. But Magee is not daunted by his former employers' competitive advantage. “Everyone loves a good fistfight,” he says.

Magee talked to B&C's Marisa Guthrie about pre-launch jitters, sparring with NBC boss Jeff Zucker and the comparisons of his female on-air staff to the WWE's Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

What were your expectations going into the launch?

When you get a project like this, there's abject fear that you'll fail. And then the secondary thing you think is maybe we won't fail, and then you have a little fantasy that maybe it will be pretty good from the first day. We've been pretty good from the first day. We haven't had any catastrophic failures.

What did your time at CNBC teach you about what to do and what not to do?

I learned a lot about business news there. I did not know a lot going in. I think there's still a lot to learn. I did learn, though, that one of the things you can't do that CNBC continues to do is to try to convince the audience that [you have] the smartest anchors they've ever seen. We would much rather grow the smartest audience.

What's your reaction to NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker's recent comments that Fox Business is not for viewers who actually want information about investing?

Jeff really hasn't had any success since the Today show, so I'm not sure he's the best barometer for what's good for TV. Our people look like they're very happy to be on TV. And over at CNBC they look miserable. If I were working under Jeff, who sort of failed upward, I'd be miserable, too.

The fact is he's liable to get more shrill as we go along because he's got all the resources of NBC behind this. When they went into NBC 2.0 [cost-saving restructuring], the only exemption was CNBC because they knew we were coming. Anything that they wanted, any project they wanted to do, got funded. And if we get any kind of foothold or make any inroads after all of that, I think it's going to reflect very badly on Jeff.

Liz Claman is the most visible CNBC defector at Fox Business. Is there anyone else you would like to poach?

They're all good at CNBC and they all deserve a place at the table. But I didn't want this place to look like that place. Liz and I worked together a few years back. She's smart as a whip, she fills the screen and she brings great energy to every project she does.

What about former Fast Money contributor Eric Bolling? Smart money says he's headed to Fox Business after he resolves his legal issues with NBC Universal.

Eric Bolling is sitting out a non-compete. I wouldn't want to say anything that would make all the lawyers jump up and down.

One critic tagged your female on-air staff the Gorgeous Ladies of Business (GLOB), a parody of the WWE's pneumatic GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) squad.

If that's the worst thing anybody can say about us, I'll take it. After years of the “Money Honey” [the moniker of CNBC's Maria Bartiromo] and all that—please!

What about the Happy Hour show? It's in a bar. Hosts Cody Willard and Rebecca Gomez are a little exuberant. Sometimes they say things they might not get away with if they were in a studio.

The Happy Hour show has generated the most buzz so far. And it is a lot of fun. It's a great Fox Business Network show because it's not like anything you've seen anywhere else. And you can't take your eyes off it.

But what does it bring to the conversation with regard to investing?

I think it decriminalizes it. When you're talking about investing, you shouldn't have that face on that you have when you're doing your taxes. It's money. It's not life or death. It's important but you're allowed to joke about it. You're allowed to have a little fun. I think Happy Hour embodies that.

Are they allowed to drink?

Not until the show is over.