Gold rush for Moneyline

Business show looks to find ratings fortune in California
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CNN's Moneyline is following the money trail west. The 20-year-old nightly business series is increasing its coverage of the technology and Internet sectors flourishing along the Pacific Coast.

Willow Bay, co-host of Moneyline with Stuart Varney, will anchor the show from CNN's Los Angeles bureau starting Sept. 11. Varney remains in New York.

The move is being made for several reasons, but chief among them is ratings.

The show averaged a 0.3 national rating and 228,000 households for second quarter 2000, down 40% in rating and 38% in households from the same quarter last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. Increased competition from CNBC and other cable news outlets and the loss of longtime host/producer Lou Dobbs haven't helped.

But it's also a case of an ebb tide at CNN lowering all boats (see story, Top of the Week). The news network's national rating is off 38% from last year. One positive for Moneyline is that its repeat episode at 11:30 p.m. ET scored its highest quarterly results, averaging a 0.3 rating/272,000 households for second quarter 2000.

"This is our opportunity to bring some viewers back, hopefully get some new viewers and keep them with us," explains Katherine O'Hearn, executive vice president of CNN Business News. "This is going to be something different that you can't get anywhere else."

"We have been wrestling with how best to cover the changes in business news and the changes brought about by the new economy for quite some time," says Bay, who also anchors CNN NewsStand one night a week. "This will offer viewers broadened and expanded business news coverage."

Moneyline's move is taking place at the same time Bay's husband, ABC Chairman Bob Iger, is moving west. As part of ABC's push to get all of its top executives to its new Burbank, Calif., headquarters, Iger and hundreds of ABC executives and producers are relocating from New York to Los Angeles.

"It pleasantly surprised and delighted me, that [CNN Business News President] Shelby Coffey and [outgoing CNN U.S. head] Rick Kaplan, when they found out about Bob being relocated to California, said, 'You know what, we really need you out there, too.'"

O'Hearn, who joined CNN this summer after serving as an executive producer on ABC's World News Tonight, says Bay isn't just some "money honey," as some have labeled her. Bay holds an M.B.A. from New York University, and she co-anchored ABC's Good Morning America/ Sunday for four years. "We consider her a huge asset."

Bay says a new production team is being added to work just out of Silicon Valley, and O'Hearn says CNN executives are close to signing a full-time correspondent to work out of the San Francisco-San Jose area.