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Financial News Networknews

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Rodney Buchser, Dr. Glen H. Taylor andMerrill Lynch(19811991)

TheFinancial News Network (FNN)was anAmericanfinancial and business newstelevision networkthat was founded by Rodney Buchser and Dr. Glen H. Taylor, in conjunction with financial management firmMerrill Lynch. Launched on November 30, 1981, the channel was bought byNBCin February 1991, and had its operations integrated with rival cable financial news network, the Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC), on May 21, 1991.

Financial News Network (FNN) was co-founded in 1981 by Rodney Buchser (who had been general manager ofinLos Angeles) and Dr. Glen H. Taylor. The concept originated in the late 1960s asQuotron(a quotation ticker vendor) supportedWCIUChicago and KWHY with the initial limited ticker scroll. In 1969, Registered Investment Advisor Eugene Inger, joined Channel 22, and expanded financial television in Los Angeles with reporting, analysis and broader coverage. Inger expanded service to the San Francisco area in 1970 onKOFY, Channel 20. He also provided financial TV programming toKDNLinSt. Louis, and pioneeredWKIDChannel 51 serving South Florida. During this time, FNN began programing on Channel 18 in Los Angeles in competition with Inger and KWHY.

Later, in 1975 viaNewark, New Jersey-based WBTB (later WWHT)-TV (channel 68, nowUniMsowned-and-operated stationWFUT-DT), an independent station owned at the time by Blonder-Tongue Broadcasting which served theNew York Citymarket, was dark. Inger revived the station by investing in Channel 68, and served as General Manager, as well as hosting a dailyWall Streetprogramming block on WBTB (then titledStock Market Todayduring market hoursandWall Street Perspectivein the evening) starting in the fall of 1975. Keith Houser, the stations assistant general manager, worked with vendors to facilitate the ticker tape crawl across the bottom of the screen with a delay (mistakenly attributed at a 2 hour delay in aTV Guidereference), as was required at the time. The ticker ran across thelower thirdof the screen, with stock prices on the top (white) band and index prices on the bottom (blue) band. After the first year of programming, the SEC permitted just a twenty-minute delay.1The concept was well-established both by WCIU Chicago, KWHY Los Angeles, Ingers day-long market coverage inFort LauderdaleMiami. (The specialty programming did not encounter regulatory hurtles TV Guide suggested.) During the years, FNN also grew affiliates that generally not overlapping Ingers targeted markets. However, Inger eventually affiliated with FNN, via an arrangement that took some programming and data feed from FNN, while retaining local coverage and interviews hosted on his station(s). The Chicago and Los Angeles stations evolved independently.

KWHY was the first television station on the West Coast to offer daily market news accompanied by a digitalstock tickercrawl at the bottom of the screen, followed byWCIUin Chicago,KEMOin San Francisco, and FNN on Los Angeles channel 18. All this allowed stock traders and investors to be able to stay on top of market action without subscribing to an expensive stock quotation service. Computers at that time could not keep up with the full stock feed and as such, the ticker could only show pre-selected stocks, making the system highly manual and clumsy. (The first fully automated stock ticker to appear on television would not be developed until 1996, for now-defunct upstartCNNfn.) Those were custom developments. Gene Ingers approach was simpler: take a feed fromReutersorUPI(both at times did contract to provide data feeds) and split-screen a camera shooting the tapes, with studio programming on the top portion. Inger was independent and never had a personal or corporate role with FNN, aside from limited mutual program affiliation later. Inger did however, become an originalMarket Mavencontributor to CNBC, which effectively absorbed all financial programming over time; with competition years later fromBloomberg TVandFox Business Channel. (Inger continued as a guest on CNBC for years; and provides a daily market analysis report online, continuing active as of 2019.)

With the earlier launch ofCNNbyTed Turnerblazing the trail (Inger did provide the original stock market commentary to Ted TurnersWTBSChannel 17 Atlanta, Channel 36 Charlotte and Hubbards Channel 44 Tampa); and subsequent to a 1975TV Guidearticle about Gene Ingers programming success in New York, Taylor and Buchser realized that newly available technology made possible the marriage of KWHY / Inger-style live market reporting with on-screen quotes and the concept of national news via satellite. The early history of FNN was not highly profitable and, within a few years, Buchser severed his relationship with the fledgling network to launch a financial marketing services firm called FMS Direct. In its early years, FMS Direct producedinfomercialsanddirect responsetelevision spots which more often than not, ran on FNN, the network he had helped to found.Harvey Scott Ellsworth, who was the creator and on-air host of the popular radio programScotts Place, which aired on Los Angeles radio stationKFIfrom 1967 until 1974IMDB Bio, was one of FNNs initial anchors.2

FNN received its early private financing from Biotech Capital Corporation, which later changed its name to Infotechnology, Inc.3Biotech Capital was also one of the few publicly held Business Development Companies – governed by the Business Company Development Act of 1980.4

In 1981, shortly before its Initial Public Offering, led by the Paulson Investment Company, Taylor, then the Chairman, resigned due to previous legal difficulties. Jeremy Wiesen, a professor of business accounting and entrepreneurship at the Stern School of Business, New York University, and formerly with the Securities and Exchange Commission, became Chairman. The networks principal audience were small investors.

FNNs principal studio was in Santa Monica, California, but it then established operations in New York, on the ground floor ofMerrill Lynchs headquarters inManhattan, where passersby could view its broadcast operations. Merrill Lynch was one of the initial private investors in FNN.

At first, the channel aired only during daytime hours on a mix ofbroadcaststations andcable televisionproviders. Over-the-air affiliates included:

WSWS, Columbus, Georgia (nowAntenna TVaffiliateWLGA)

KTWS (nowKDFI), Dallas (now aMyNetworkTVaffiliate)

WKID (nowWSCV), Miami/Ft. Lauderdale (now Telemundo)

WWSG-TV, Philadelphia (now CW affiliateWPSG); replaced in late 1982 by WRBV-TV, Vineland, NJ (nowUnivision-ownedWUVP)

WCCO-TV, Minneapolis (now aCBSowned-and-operated station)

KSTS-TV48 San Jose, CA (now a Telemundo O & O)

WBTI-TV (nowWSTR-TV), Cincinnati (now aMyNetworkTVaffiliate)

WCQR (nowWDCW), Washington, D.C. (now aCWaffiliate) (WCQR received its feed from WNUV via microwave, with local insertion provided at WNUV)

WPTT-TV (nowWPNT), Pittsburgh (now aMyNetworkTVaffiliate)

WSTG-TV (nowWNAC-TV), Providence (now aFoxaffiliate)

KGCT-TV (nowKMYT-TV), Tulsa (now aMyNetworkTVaffiliate)

WDDD (nowWTCT), Marion, IL (now a TCT affiliate)

KZAZ-TV (nowKMSB), Tucson (now a Fox affiliate)

WTSG-TV (nowWFXL), Albany, GA (now aFoxaffiliate)

WRIP, Chattanooga (nowWDSI-TV, aThis TVaffiliate)

KECH (nowKPXG-TV), Portland, OR (now anIon Televisionaffiliate)

In 1985, FNN severed ties with its broadcast stations and established a 24-hourcable-exclusivefeed. At night, it began offering the Cable Sports Network, a venture between theMizlou Television Networkand Tom Ficara; this was subsequently replaced bySCORE, a mini-network that aired sports events and news. Also airing in the overnight hours was Venture, a series of long-form speeches by business leaders, and TelShop, a shop-at-home service.

In the late 1980s, Infotechnology Inc., the New York-based information technology and venture capital company5(chaired byEarl Brian) which also ownedUnited Press International, increased its position to 47 percent, and remained one of FNNs largest shareholders until Earl Brian, the CEO of UPI and FNN, was later convicted on fraud charges specific to UPI and FNN. At its height, FNN was available on 3,500 cable systems, reaching a potential audience of 35 million homes across the country. FNN moved into newly built modern TV studios and production facilities in the Wang building in Los Angeles and in New YorksRockefeller Center.

In 1990only months after beginning its biggest advertising campaign everFNN fell prey to two of the main topics of its broadcasts, a financial scandal and anaccountingdispute. During that years audit, the networks auditor,Deloitte & Touche, discovered irregularities on the part of itschief financial officer, C. Steven Bolen. The irregularities were serious enough that Deloitte said its 1989 audit couldnt be relied upon. FNN launched an internal investigation and discovered what it called evidence of unauthorized payments that Bolen made to himself. Bolen was fired in October. In addition, Deloitte wanted FNN to report a $28 million investment into a data system for brokers as an expense. FNN claimed that this would push its balance sheet so far into the red that it would violate some covenants with its banks, as well as force a default on itsline of credit. FNN replaced Deloitte withCoopers & Lybrand, and reported a $72.5 million loss for fiscal 1990. Needing a major cash infusion to stay in business, FNN put itself up for sale in November.

In February 1991, FNN reached ahandshake agreementwith a partnership ofDow Jones & CompanyandWestinghouse Broadcasting(Group W) for $90 million. However, just a few days later, FNN agreed to an unexpected $105 million offer fromNBC, owner of FNNs then two-year-old rival,CNBC. NBC had encountered problems getting cable systems to carry CNBC, and intended to merge CNBC with FNN (at the time, CNBC was only in 17 million homes). However, matters were complicated in March when FNN filed forChapter 11 bankruptcy, triggering a lively bidding war for the network.

Group W and Dow Jones raised their offer to $115 million, only to be turned down on a technicality by Bankruptcy Court Judge Francis Conrad; Dow Jones and Group W refused to keep the bidding open until May 31, 1991. NBC then raised its offer to $115 million, which was accepted by Conrad. That decision, however, was overturned on appeal.

Group W/Dow Jones and CNBC both significantly raised their bids. Group W/Dow Jones offered $167 million, while CNBC offered $154 million. However, the CNBC bid included more cash, and the Dow Jones/Group W bid included payments that were tied to revenue targets over three years. Conrad awarded FNN to CNBC, feeling its deal was more realistic.

FNN ceased operations at 6:00p.m. Eastern Time on May 21, 1991. CNBC immediately took over FNNs satellite transponder space, more than doubling its audience at one stroke, and branded its business day programming as CNBC/FNN Daytime until 1992; CNBC also effectively adopted the look, news style of FNN as well as incorporated features of FNNs ticker into its own on-screenstock ticker. While most of FNNs employees were laid off as a consequence of the merger, a select number of FNN anchors and reporters (includingBill GriffethRon InsanaAllan ChernoffandJoe Kernen) were retained by CNBC. (Sue Herera, who joined FNN at age 21 and very soon became an anchor, moved to NBC and the brand-new CNBC prior to the demise of FNN; Griffeth and Herera were later reunited at CNBC and co-anchoredPower Lunchuntil 2011.)

CNBC successor in interest to the Financial News Network

LiveWire Professional MS-DOS software for conversion of Financial News Network stock market ticker to computer readable format

October, 1975 TV Guide article & 1976 FCC WBTB-TV Blonder-Tongue Broadcasting Specialty Programming Filings

Biotech Capital Corporation Reports Earnings as of June 30, 1987.

Kleiman, Robert (May 1992). The risk-return attributes of publicly traded venture capital: Implications for investors and public policy.

(3): 195208.doi10.1016/0883-9026(92)90026-N.

Vesey, David (1988-03-30).UPI Announces Business Plan – 1988. Downholders aka: downhold.org

Television channels and stations established in 1981

Television channels and stations disestablished in 1991

English-language television stations in the United States

Articles needing additional references from October 2008

This page was last edited on 7 October 2019, at 16:41

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