Ever Wonder Why Dennis Kneale Has a Job?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed that since the financial crisis kicked into high gear last September, the amount of bickering on CNBC has increased exponentially. Earlier this week, it was announced that Jonathan Wald, the man behind all that shouting, would be leaving the network at the end of March. I thought that would be a good occasion to look at CNBC’s strategy which has been to encourage strong personalities, like Dennis Kneale to be on-air and in everyone’s face. If you haven’t seen this clip of Kneale scolding Charlie Gasparino, it’s worth watching. It nicely sets up this:

It turns out Kneale is haughty but wrong. The constant carping, acting out, and cartoonish behavior has been anything but bad for CNBC’s brand. In fact, it is part of a conscious strategy to take what was once a staid place where the markets themselves starred and turn it into a free-for-all with heroes and villains and a running back story sort of like professional wrestling.

That strategy was executed with the constant hand of architect Jonathan Wald guiding his on-air team. It was a strategy that helped fend off Roger Ailes and Fox Business—remember them? But it also eventually led to the announcement Tuesday that Wald would be leaving the cable network at the end of the quarter.

“Conflict is king in cable television,” Wald says. “You want more than one guest at a time. You want cacophony, not a symphony.” That point of view is what made CNBC an odd combination of up-to-the-second market information, talk radio, and a freewheeling sports show that cuts into the action at every lull.


Fighting Over Money
What CNBC has in common with professional wrestling
The Big Money; February 5, 2009

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