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2HRS2GO: Finance TV getting to be too much

How much financial TV can the world support?



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The question arose after Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) debuted its FinanceVision webcast this week. We now have at least two streaming video specialists devoted solely to finance, Yahoo! FinanceVision and ON24. The first one broadcasts live, the other offers a hoard of material taped throughout the day.

CNBC remains the king of cable TV financial information, and arguably the single most influential finance news outlet period, at least in the United States. CNNfn floats around on cable networks as well, although I suspect most folks would be hard pressed to remember anything other than Moneyline.

Bloomberg TV is available live around the clock via satellite TV, WMBC-TV in the New York City metro area, and on that big screen in Manhattan's Penn Station. You can also catch it mornings on Barry Diller's USA Network, and on various channels around the world.

Among the traditional TV players, only Bloomberg does simultaneous live Webcasts. Daily snippets of CNBC video are available on CNBC.com as well as being syndicated on various websites such as Techweb. Archives of some CNNfn shows reside at CNNfn.com.

Plenty of options. And none make a compelling case for watching one over another.

Consider the latest entrant into the field. Yahoo! FinanceVision requires a special client that packages the Windows Media Player with some cute buttons, a window that displays related data in HTML format, and a customized version of the Internet Explorer browser.

Downloading a separate client is annoying enough. There's no reason FinanceVision couldn't be designed as a webpage of its own, with a streaming video plug-in on a dynamically updating site that can be visited through the browser you already have.

I was curious enough to try it anyway, because I wanted to catch Yahoo!'s first attempt at creating its own content.

The show features a casually-dressed horde of twentysomething reporters, annoying cute tags such as "FinanceVisionary" and slogans chanted every 5 minutes ("Make Money. Have Fun"). It obviously targets the newer end of the investor demographic.

FinanceVision shows its rough edges, but the show lands decent guests and does well using reporters from quality partners such as TheStreet.com and CBS Marketwatch. Given FinanceVision's newness, I can overlook the occasional production glitch (NYSE reporter Mary Snow losing her microphone) and raw quality of the on-air talent; I assume the show will improve with time.

But even if FinanceVision were as polished as 60 Minutes instead of being a gussied-up public access show, the content is hardly different from anything on any other finance network. I suppose it's a bit shallower -- while CNBC delivers scoops from David Faber, FinanceVision gives a "Lowdown" that seems to consist of items culled from various Silicon Valley publications or finance-related websites, such as a preview of the Springboard 2000 venture capital event.

Yahoo! tries to differentiate itself as "the ONLY financial news network streaming to YOU live from Silicon Valley."

Who cares? Most of the live reports are from New York City anyway, because NYC remains the capital of the U.S. finance world. The anchors sit in Silicon Valley, but you can put a talking head anywhere -- the inside of a studio in Saskatchewan would work as well as a studio in northern California.

FinanceVision wouldn't be a bad thing by itself. But it's not alone, and if I were a Yahoo! shareholder, I'd want to know why my company is spending resources to duplicate what's already done very well by other outlets.

You might say the same thing about ZDII: Why does ZDNet bother when there are an ungodly number of financial websites out there?

There's a difference. Investors can, should and do peruse many websites to get as much information as possible. You can read five different versions of a news story: TheStreet.com often takes a different tack from The Wall Street Journal, just as CNet and ZDNet have their own angles on technology news. All be read separately at your leisure.

Can you say the same for TV shows? What does FinanceVision provide that CNBC doesn't?

"Many people who use Yahoo! Finance had expressed a desire to get broadcast programming as well as raw data," said Reuters, citing Yahoo! President Jeff Mallett.

But people can't watch three videos at once, whether streamed over the Web or broadcast over coaxial cable lines. FinanceVision needs to be better than the competition.

At the moment, it's not even as good.

Besides, Yahoo! Finance already has video from ON24, albeit taped. If Yahoo! wanted live content, couldn't it cut a deal with someone? I'm sure Bloomberg or Marketwatch would love to get on Yahoo!.

Then again, maybe they don't want their reporters tagged as FinanceVisionaries. 22GO>