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CNBC TV Launches Business Show in Primetime - 2001-11-23

Cable television network CNBC has launched a new business show in prime time, during those highly competitive late evening hours when many Americans watch their favorite TV programs. The daily series called "America Now" will explore how the terror attacks of September 11 have changed the way Americans live and do business.

One of CNBC's star performers during daytime business coverage, Maria Bartiromo, hosted the debut of the new prime-time show. "Good evening everybody and welcome to the first edition of CNBC's 'America Now.' It's been called the 'new normal,' the radically altered lives we've all been living since September 11," she said. "In this hour, every night, we'll take you inside the 'new normal,' how it affects what you earn, what you buy, how you work, how we live in America now."

CNBC has built its new show on the idea that business and political developments are interdependent to a greater extent than before September 11. The show weaves economic discussion through political and military news. Economist Diane Swonk was called on to address the welcome phenomenon of falling oil prices. "But let's keep in mind where we're fighting in the world right now," she said. "If this war really, as your earlier guest cited, could be an eight year kind of excursion, moving into other parts of the Middle East, we know oil prices could very rapidly go back up again. But for the moment, a lot of pressures are going in our favor."

From oil politics to what works for Hollywood in the aftermath of September 11. Host Maria Bartiromo discussed the movie debut of Harry Potter, the fictional creation of British author JK Rawlings. "The wizard has beaten the lizard," said Ms. Bartiromo. 'Harry Potter' made box-office magic over the weekend, taking in more than $93 million. The previous weekend record set by 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' in 1997 just vanished into thin air. It's good news for an industry that has been trying to figure out how to deal with a country that is shell-shocked, traumatized."

Ratings for business-oriented programs in prime time have been going down. But CNBC may be gambling on the expectation that viewers now are more receptive to that kind of programming. September 11 seems to have added a new dimension to the lives of Americans. That brazen display of terrorism on American soil deeply touched their travel plans, their leisure activity, and, for many, their stock portfolios. Afghanistan is no longer just a place somewhere out there, as the U.S. military attempts to ferret out Osama bin Laden and his supporters.

From Wall Street to 'Main Street,' Americans feel the change. The betting at CNBC is that it has moved into prime time just at the right time to capture a sizeable share of the television audience.