Bloomberg TV

Monday, June 27, 2005

Behold...the Death Star

One of the worrying aspects of watching Bloomberg as of late has been the dearth of commentators who espouse cautionary views about the state of the US economy, like Stephen Roach's "endgame" or Nouriel Roubini's "hard landing."

It's understandable that a business news channel would find it more appealing ratings-wise to have guests with sanguine outlooks, but it's getting rather late in the game with prospects not looking terribly good all the time. Housing bubbles, newly-elected Iranian hardliners, skyrocketing oil prices, and the continuing dismemberment of American automotive and airline industries are but a few of the many concerns right now. Reality is grim, and the Death Star is in plain sight.

I do hope that Michael Bloomberg's political affiliations do not skew Bloomberg TV's editorial stance. We don't need a TV version of the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages. Instead of having John Snow and Elaine Chao for the umpteenth time, why not have more guests with grimmer but less self-interested viewpoints? If the overwhelming tide of "don't worry, be happy" guests doesn't fade, then there will be little difference left between Bloomberg TV and CNBC. Real news is about reality good and bad; if you don't agree, there's always Fox News.

"We're Not Suckers Here"

I was watching commodities guru Jim Rogers being interviewed on Bloomberg Voices this morning. He hit the nail on the head when he mentioned that cable business news channels tend to be incorrigible trend followers. Whether it's the Japan bubble, the dot-com bubble, or the current housing bubble, these channels like to stoke the flames of whatever is hot. Of course, the party ends sooner or later, and the mess left behind is never pretty.

Bloomberg host Bernie Lo countered Rogers' criticism by saying that his channel avoided most of CNBC's excessive boosterism, and Rogers kind of agreed. When Bloomberg was mentioned in the same breath as CNBC, Bernie Lo made my day by comically retorting, "We're not suckers here." Maybe so. Bloomberg is not such a blatant rah-rah for its audience is, as I've mentioned before, composed more of finance professionals and less of casual investors who piled in during the go-go days of the Clinton era. I was reminded of CNBC's rose-tinted bias just last Friday when the data on durable goods orders was released. These CNBC hosts were yakking about how great the 5.5% reported increase was when it was made up largely of one-time orders by Boeing; net of transportation, the figure was actually -0.2%. Sure enough, the Dow Jones promptly fell 123.60 points, and even Boeing went down $1.29.

Yet, you can't get away from the fact that Bloomberg features a lot of guests nowadays from the homebuilding industry. Whether it's Pulte Homes, Toll Brothers, or Fannie Mae, the song remains the same: the housing market is great, no "bubble" worries here. Their certitude is worrying, and Jim Rogers' advice about commodities should definitely be considered. The "flippers" who try to make a quick buck by buying houses just to sell them again should heed Burt Bacharach's wisdom pronto:

A house is not a home when there's no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight

Friday, June 24, 2005

In This Corner...the Merciless Cutoff Timer

I've seen it happen so often: a long-winded guest keeps talking, and the Bloomberg news anchor tries to cut him or her off as a commercial break approaches. To discourage discontinuities in programming, Bloomberg relentlessly enforces its commercial breaks. Now, it may seem rude sometimes, but some time awareness on the part of the guests is in order. If you notice, those who put in regular appearances avoid this pitfall through experience. Like in all good presentations, it's best to get to the point and keep it short and simple, lest the viewers start reaching for the remote in search of Lucha wrestling

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bloomberg Viewer = Smart + Rich ?

Pat yourself on the back, my friend. Have a cigar, even (as long as you aren't at work). From a survey by Mediamark Research:

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Clutter and the Hong Kong Dollar

Just a few days ago, I noticed the Hong Kong dollar making it to the currencies being monitored on the Bloomberg TV Asia data screen. I understand that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has widened the band in which the currency can move around a nominal peg of HKD7.80 to one USD. Still, this band of HKD7.75 to HKD7.85 is negligibly small, amounting to less than ±1%. Few people would bother to notice such minuscule movements, I believe.

Still, Bloomberg might know something that I don't. The ungenerous range was conceived as a way to partially control speculators using HKD as a substitute for the Chinese yuan in hopes that the latter would revalue. Are the Bloomberg folks prepping us for the near-term prospect of yuan revaluation? I can only, ahem, speculate.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Who Needs Another Business News Channel?

I doubt whether I do. The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reports that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. will soon set up its own business news channel to compete with CNBC. The guy who helped conjure up CNBC in the first place, Roger Ailes, went on to set up Fox News. Now Murdoch has convinced a hesitant Ailes to create a business news channel for Fox.

During the dot-com boom, I occasionally watched CNBC. There was Maria Bartiromo on the NYSE floor holding forth on stock price movements. And for a time, the indices never failed to go up, up, UP! In terms of sheer boosterism during those heady days, CNBC had no equal. Then came the stock market drop, and oddly, CNBC still tried its best to create a sense of excitement among its viewers when the party was clearly over and the caterers were already packing up the silverware. And as the bust moved in, so did a ratings slump that continues to this day; CNBC viewership is less than 40% of what it was in its heyday.

Bloomberg is drier and more straightforward in its approach than CNBC; "businesslike" in the best sense of the word. Although they've tried to enliven their set somewhat (see below), Bloomberg doesn't typically go for roundtable chit-chat and sports commentator-style talk. Casual investors (read: stocks only) are more amenable to CNBC's "Fox Lite" style whereas more serious finance professionals and their ilk who follow more than just stocks prefer Bloomberg. With Ailes at the helm of the upcoming Fox business news channel, expect a more jazzed up CNBC, but not much else.

Streaming Internet Feed Doesn't Display Data

A nifty feature of Bloomberg TV is that you can view a stream of its programming online for US, European, and Asian editions. In the event that you find yourself without cable but with Internet access, keeping up with the markets in this manner looks like a feasible alternative.

The problem though is that the Internet feed just features a view of the main screen. Omitted are the stock ticker, the stock indices, foreign exchange quotes, and news headlines. Let's say you're watching the US Internet feed of the program while waiting for European economic data to break. If the data is relatively secondary to US markets, chances are that it will be displayed in the news headlines section of the broadcast edition and not be mentioned by the newscasters. That means Internet viewers will miss this data. Hopefully, Bloomberg can find a remedy so that this data can be relayed in a timely manner on its Internet feed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New York Studio's New Look

New York-based Bloomberg has just succumbed to the ever-popular "open studio" look, wherein the backdrop of the set is left open to the activity behind it. Thus, those monitoring the newswires, prepping the hosts and guests, collating the presentation data etc. can be glimpsed.

I am indifferent to this change. Some may appreciate the change of scenery, while other might prefer the older, neutral backdrop. I think the new look is positive for variety, though this is counterbalanced by the constant distraction of blinking monitors and people walking around. Your mileage may vary.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Going Live

They've got this funny ad on Bloomberg TV Asia of a chap who's getting ready for work. Every room in his house is wired to Mike Bloomberg's omnipresent news service. It's an apt analogy for the ubiquity of Bloomberg TV. Several months ago, I visited Hong Kong. Not only did the major banks' trading floors all sport flat-screen monitors depicting the familiar orange Bloomberg logo, but there were also several elevators with LCD panels showing it as well! See for yourself -->

Whether you're a finance professional, a day trader, a casual investor, or a gold miner, there's something of interest on Bloomberg TV. Since you pretty much can't avoid it if you're at all interested in finance, global markets, or the like, you might as well make the best of what's around. This blog is dedicated to getting the most from watching Bloomberg TV--and making suggestions for improving its quality. Topics will include:
...and much, much, more! All participants are most welcome as we watch...out of necessity, or awe.


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