Mumbai: The president and chief executive officer of US-based business news broadcaster CNBC, Mark Hoffman, was in a buoyant mood on his first visit to India. Under Hoffman, who took over in February 2005, CNBC has been posting double-digit growth in annual profit.
In India, CNBC has a partnership with Television Eighteen India Ltd that beams the channel CNBC-TV18. Mint has a content partnership with CNBC-TV18.
Hoffman travelled to India from South Korea, where he attended the launch of a 24-hour business channel in partnership with Seoul Broadcasting System, a local network. He said in an interview that CNBC wants to maintain its double-digit profit growth. Edited excerpts:
Have you been to India before?
This is my first visit to India. We launched a new business channel (in South Korea) called SBS-CNBC. I went (to Seoul) for the official celebration of the new channel. In Korea, there are five business channels. And in just two weeks, our channel has risen to No. 2 and it looks great. We have a strong partnership going there.
Ever since you took over the reins some five years ago, CNBC has been posting double-digit growth. Can this growth be sustained, and will growth now come from emerging economies where CNBC has set up base?
I can talk to you generally on how we look at the business. In 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, we recorded double-digit growth in profits. We want to keep that trend going. Our strategy is (that) we have a domestic TV channel business in the US and we look at that between business day and prime time. We also have digital businesses in the US and around the world. We have a strong and growing international business which brought us here.
Growth spurt: Hoffman says CNBC wants to maintain its record growth in profit, which has grown in double digits for four years in a row. Shriya Patil Shinde/Mint
The strategy, internationally, has been English channels in Europe and Asia. So we have (an) English-language European channel based in London and (an) English channel for Asia, based out of Singapore. We have a number of local-language channels with partners around the world and our Indian team is one of those. This partnership is that we started with a channel in English and now we also have a second channel in Hindi that is doing exceptionally well and has great recognition and viewership in India.
There is a lot that is happening in the media, with newer technologies putting many tried-and-tested formats at risk. Mobile phones and e-book readers are dispensing news, ‘The New York Times’ Internet edition is going to charge for content... How are you preparing for the changes? Where is media going from here?
I don’t know where media is going to be in three-five years, or even 10 years from now. I do know what’s going to be essential is what the brand stands for and what it delivers. Those fundamentals are going to be the same no matter what the delivery systems are. We want to be aligned (in) such (a way) that the people who want this content and when they want it and how they want it, CNBC will be there for them.
If it is television or if it is portability of television or if it is the various digital products—whatever happens, we’ll be working very hard and make sure that we’ll be there.
Fundamentally, the enterprise culture which is CNBC around the world of being fast and accurate and unbiased—those are the tenets, those are the drivers; those things will be part of us always.
On stock recommendations, there have been some issues at times faced by business media in general. At the height of the boom everything looks good, but when the financial crisis happened many investors were unhappy at having been caught unawares. Jim Cramer’s ‘Mad Money’ show provoked many spoofs when markets tanked. What is your view on this?
CNBC is built for balance. I’ll give you a US example since you said it. Five years ago, on CNBC US, 40 people were interviewed a day. Today, it is 140 people a day. CNBC Europe, Asia and US interviews over 850 people around the world.
If you add CNBC-TV18, SBS-CNBC and our channels in South Africa, Middle East (West Asia) and Japan, we are talking about hundreds more. The reason for that is to get the best minds on every relevant topic and let the inherent conflict play out qualitatively on air.
At its essence, CNBC is trying to explain the basic concepts of business. Somebody wants to buy and somebody else wants to sell. We are focused on the concept that in markets there is fear on the one end and there is greed on the other end. Who’ll tip the balance? That task of relaying every important and relevant opinion and every essential opinion and let it play out in real time on our various platforms around the world is how we ensure the balance.
Have you seen off the challenge posed by Fox Business network?
I’ll let others make that determination. I’ll tell you that we are exceptionally placed with our results. We had, I think, phenomenal performance on every platform, on every channel around the world that relates to the huge economic issues that the world has faced. We’ve seen record profits for four years in a row.
So the reason why that happens is because we have the best talent in the business, the most committed and focused people in the business. These teams are enterprising and they are competitive and they come to work every day for a start-up.
No one is resting on 20 years of experience. They are focused on how they plan to attack the day today. And those who rest on their laurels in an atmosphere where technology changes so dramatically, where information moves so quickly and money flows so aggressively, I think they are going to be disappointed.
With Rupert Murdoch acquiring ‘The Wall Street Journal’ (WSJ), will it change the equations at CNBC (which has a tie-up with the WSJ) and for Fox?
We have a relationship with WSJ which goes back 10 years or so, where we have editorial sharing. We partner on many projects, and we have a great working relationship with them. That relationship continues through the end of 2012.
What about business accruing from emerging economies and how much will their share increase in your main book?
I cannot get specific. All I can tell you is that our international strategy is both regional and is local-language-market-specific. We have seen some tremendous growth in four-five years internationally, as the world has become smaller. What I know about these relationships and the ability for all of the CNBC brands to leverage the editorial assets in the US or India or South Africa or Japan and any part of the world (is that it) will strengthen every other one.
It will also enhance our ability to customize solutions for advertisers in all of these important marketplaces around the world. We have been a great selling point to that effect to the advertisers around the world.
Who is the star in your network? Is it Maria Bartiromo or Erin Burnett?
(Laughs) Do you expect me to give an answer to that? We have dozens and dozens of people around the world. I think they are all great. They are both great. But there are 39 other anchors on air in the US. We want them to be there and they’re doing a great job.