When Neil Cavuto began covering business news in the early 1980s, his friends considered him a nerd.
But with the meteoric growth of business news on television today, Mr. Cavuto, anchor of the Fox News Channel's "Cavuto Business Report," says those same friends now say he's "almost cool."
Not only is business news more fashionable as a journalistic beat, but it's also becoming good business for television. More than 40 business programs now appear on broadcast and cable channels, collectively reaching about two-thirds of US viewing households.
"Big pay packages for executives, big takeover targets, the huge corporate egos involved - these kinds of stories beat an episode of 'Dallas' any day," says Cavuto.
News about bond trading and public offerings, once the domain of a Wall Street elite, is now available around the clock to almost anyone. From Bloomberg Television to CNNfn, investors themselves are getting a mother lode of economic intelligence that they increasingly use to make financial decisions.
The boom in business news has brought an unlikely challenger to the nation's nightly newscasts. Tom, Dan, and Peter: Meet Lou. Last month CNN expanded its 18-year-old nightly edition of "Moneyline With Lou Dobbs," which pulls the highest-earning ad rates on CNN, to compete with the big three network newscasts. The new program, "Moneyline News Hour With Lou Dobbs," now delivers its own take on the nation's news at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Just how hot is business news? In 1997, the bull market ranked as the fourth most-covered story on the nightly newscasts, according to the Tyndall Report, which tracks such coverage. Earlier this year a crisis over the rupiah - the Indonesia currency - became the lead story in newspapers and network newscasts across the US.
Cable television, able to target niche viewership, has become a hotbed of news about money, finance, and the economy. Financial news channel CNBC is one of the fastest growing and among the most-profitable cable networks in the nation. And 24-hour news channels like MSNBC and the Fox News Channel are increasingly turning to business news to draw audiences.