Crisis keeps Fox Business rolling

Network added hours over weekend to cover bailout

NEW YORK -- The Wall Street week ended Friday afternoon but Fox Business Network kept going all weekend covering the national financial crisis and the efforts down in Washington to pass a bailout bill.

Fox Business Channel carried live at 12:20 a.m. ET Sunday an update by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Congressional leaders on the status of the bailout bill, which could be tentatively approved as early as Sunday night or Monday. FBN's coverage of that was simulcast on Fox News Channel, the first time in the channels' history that they have carried the same feed.

That was atop seven hours of live business coverage, aimed at the average investor, from the channel's top talent on Saturday. And Fox Business Network has aired live cut-ins updating Sunday and planned a two-hour special Sunday night.

"It could well be the defining moment for Fox Business," said Kevin Magee, executive vp of the Fox Business Network, on Sunday afternoon from the network's New York City headquarters. "We decided we needed that approach for what we think is the most important business story of our lifetime, and come at it as newspeople."

That meant scrapping FBN's plans for Saturday and Sunday, which during the day included a lot of infomercials.

"We blew them out this weekend, even though it cost us money," Magee said. "I think we're just approaching this with the mentality of a news channel."

That meant an almost-all-hands-on-deck call Saturday. Stuart Varney anchored the 10 a.m. to noon ET coverage, with Dagen McDowell and Jenna Lee anchoring between noon and 2 p.m. FBN continued with live updates until 7 p.m., when Alexis Glick and Brian Sullivan anchored the live Saturday night coverage. Guests included House and Senate leaders, David Boies and Muriel Siebert

It was only supposed to be five hours, not seven, on Saturday. But Magee said the talent and producers asked for extra time and it was granted.

"One terrific thing with a startup, everybody has such a great attitude and is so heavily invested in making this place a success," Magee said. "You can't keep them away on something like this."

Meanwhile, CNBC carried live coverage until 11 p.m. ET Friday and had brief updates over the weekend, although it kept mostly to its regular programming and infomercials and not the type of crisis-focused coverage Fox Business Network did. It too will have a live two-hour special Sunday night.

Magee didn't think of going off the air on the weekend when there's such a big important news story going on.

"The story's just too big to go to sleep on," he said.

The plucky business channel has been doing a lot of that coverage lately, including several holidays earlier this year when the financial markets were in turmoil. Although without receiving regular ratings it's hard to determine how many people have been watching. The network now has 40 million subscribers across the United States. Magee said that they just learned that it's available on Capitol Hill, with several legislators telling FBN that they had been watching the coverage in their offices.

It also received a large amount of calls and e-mails throughout its live coverage from people all over the country asking questions and wanting to hear more.

"Clearly this is a story that has enormous interest from the public, and we're just happy to be in here trying to give them some answers," Magee said.