Monday, May 12, 2008

CNBC: The Dullest Network on Television

Let me start off by saying that my husband is home from work today. He’s on vacation for the week. This only means one thing for my morning television viewing: I will have to watch a lot of CNBC. And watching this channel is like watching paint dry. No wait, it’s like watching paint PEEL. I think my husband isn't really even watching it, it's like a white noise in the background as he works on other stuff or reads the paper.

Can there be anything more boring than watching a bunch of lifeless talking heads cover the dull world of business? No matter how you cut it, it’s still a dull topic. There isn’t much, except for the occasional business scandal or huge merger or acquisition that could make this channel even remotely interesting.

“Squawk Box,” their morning segment, involves a group of talking heads sitting around a large counter-like desk, sitting with their computers close by where they can pull up charts for any company that they discuss. It looks like watching a few hours of an EKG chart being displayed, with jagged lines up and down, depending on how the stock in question has moved. Occasionally, they attempt witty banter, which comes across as forced or condescending. Most annoying is Joe Kernen, who every time I seem to watch the show, he seemed focused more on himself than the business world.

At 9:00 before the market opens, Mark Haines, who used to be on Squawk Box, now wisely has moved away from the snooty Squawk Box group into the more interactive segments on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It makes for a more interesting backdrop, but still fails at attempts to make the dull world of business seem exhilarating. Even worse is the omnipresent Erin Burnett, who seems to be the golden girl of CNBC, as she seems to show up frequently on The Today Show and the NBC Nightly News. I am not sure why they are so enamored with her as she seems to lack any real substance.

Thankfully, my husband changed the channel, becoming bored himself. CNBC won’t go back on in this household again until 6:00 PM, when Jim Cramer starts his show, Mad Money. At first, I really didn’t care for Jim Cramer that much. But, it grew on me a bit, and I wrote about it last November (here) that it’s part business show, part sideshow. And I think that’s what makes the show work. Jim is unconventional, he uses props and a sound effects board to bring home his point. He also just doesn’t spout his opinions on stocks, he teaches people how to invest. My husband has almost all of his books, and I’ve actually read some of them myself. I believe that Jim may be one of the most down to earth, realistic, and educational business anchors on television today. In fact, I think that he may be the one person who continues to draw more viewers to CNBC. Now, mind you, I don’t make any promises or predictions on his accuracy. I think there are a few websites out there who track his performance and he has made some mistakes. But, Jim admits those mistakes himself, and often warns people to make sure they do their own homework and make their own choices.

I’m not saying that the rest of CNBC should look like Cramer’s Mad Money, but they do need to do something to the old “talking heads around a desk” format. It’s old, it’s dated, it just doesn’t really inform. It’s just…there. I can’t think of one thing on this show that would even remotely draw in viewers who aren’t already tuned in to the boring world of stock charts. Even more puzzling is Fox must think there are a lot of casual business news viewers because they started their Fox Business Channel several months ago in direct competition with CNBC. You know, that channel COULD actually be worse than CNBC, but I consider CNBC the worst because they’ve been around longer and they should have already found a way to make the business world intriguing.

So if you want to learn more about buying stocks, start with Jim Cramer’s show Mad Money. You may actually learn something. And unless you want to be bored to tears, avoid “Squawk Box” at all costs. You likely will be asleep before the market opens.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For a good laugh, you should check out Erin Burnett's wikipedia profile. Her 8 things that impress me list in Men's Health magazine, calling President Bush a monkey and saying that lead paint in children's toys is a good thing are priceless.