On Friday, I was heading home from a long week on the road. Around lunchtime, I land at O’Hare where I went through U.S. customs (easy!) and then switch planes for the last leg home.

On the rail shuttle between terminals, I had a few minutes. I scroll through Twitter to see what was going on, and BAM! The Tweeps are ablaze with excitement, about the Best. Television. Ever.

This pissing match began on Bloomberg on Thursday, with Trish Regan interviewing Carl Icahn one-on-one (video, article). The next day, it moved to CNBC, where Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn had gotten into an even bigger pissing match, live on the air. The reaction was breathless: “Greatest Moment In Financial TV HistoryBusiness Insider declared.” HuffPo declared it an “Epic CNBC Brawl.”

And it wasn’t just the Content Farms pushing SEO driven headlines. Even the Christian Science Monitor wrote about “Bickering billionaires go public.”

Reading through the commentary was strangely disconnected. People seemed genuinely excited about things that were rather mundane (Cat fight!) and meaningless (Icahn said “Bullshit” on the air!). The excitement, odd though it might have been, was palpable. I thought, I must be missing something not seeing it on the tube. So the next day, I watched the full exchange online. (video, transcript) Three people having a conversation on TV — two of the three by telephone.

I was, to say the least, underwhelmed.

I watched (or really listened to) a pair of wealthy men air their grievances to this rather petty, public, squabble, and I thought to myself: Why does this sound so familiar?

There was lots of drama. Two outsized personalities, with big bucks on the line. There was a back history between the two — wounded pride, lost friendships, poisoned working relations. There was nearly a decade of litigation, subsequent power struggles, accusations back and forth.  Fortunes were made and lost and made again. Reputations sullied, egos punctured. The only thing missing was a season ending cliff hanger.

Then it dawned on me: This was an episode of Dallas, with a dollop of a modern reality TV thrown in for good measure.

Like Dallas, this made for compelling, dramatic television, and great infotainment. But this Soap Opera had nothing whatsoever to do with investing or trading.

Consider the universe of potential investors, and the myriad potential investments they can possibly make. A few investors in Ackman’s fund, a few more in Icahn’s fund, and however few people are long or short Herbalife. For 99.97% of the viewers, it was irrelelvant.

How was this any different than Judge Judy — only without the poor people ? Maybe Jerry Springer is the better comparison — it looked like someone (Ackman?) got sandbagged –  only with CNBC’s Scott Wapner between two masters of the universe instead of Springer?

It was gossipy, catty, meaningless backstabbing machinations, prodded on by the anchor, to the delight of the attendees of at coliseum. Maybe some people think this is compelling television, but it was embarrassing financial journalism, Junk TV. What’s next, “SquawkBox, Live from the Jersey Shore?”

There is a reason why the televisions are off — not muted, but off — in our office. Perhaps we should throw the damn things out altogether.

Some people with nothing better to do with their time. Excuse me, if I take a pass . . .

 

Previously:
Lose the News (June 16 2005)

The Price of Paying Attention (November 3rd, 2012)

Things I Don’t Care About (January 15th, 2013)

 

 

Category: Financial Press, Really, really bad calls, Television, Web/Tech

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

35 Responses to “Live, On Financial TV! Its the Jerry Springer Show!

  1. InterestedObserver says:

    I watched the piece.

    I’m not sure it even achieves underwhelming status. I suppose the headlines fit the generic eyeball magnet hyperbole expected from the majority of sites these days. I did expect better from the business oriented folks and I now stand corrected. Oh well…..

  2. Liquidity Trader says:

    This was not about education viewers, this was about ratings:

    CNBC ratings hit seven-year low

    CNBC Ratings Keep Falling, FOX Business Ratings Keep Rising

    CNBC must be under enormous pressure to do something to goose those numbers

  3. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    It’s all infotainment now. Give the rubes what they want.

    OMG. I think I’ve turned into my father !

  4. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    If it wasn’t for watching an occasional golf tournament and having a wife, I wouldn’t even own a TV.

  5. Rightline says:

    It was also similar to Real Housewives of Wherever…

    I did find several things of interest in this soap opera episode.

    Icahn was accusing Ackman of playing Icahn’s game, but on the short side. How is it not manipulation when Icahn buys up a bunch of stock and then declares (threatens) his grandiose self serving, short sighted (but profitable for him) plans for the company? He demands Motorola or Clorox do this now, Navistar change it’s business plan, Chesapeak board seats, or Transocean pays a ransome dividend, or Hastings will listen to offers. All engineered to get a market reaction. He has no regard for the long time founders, employees, or shareholders. Only his self serving greedy interests. To hell with the 20 year plan this company is executing well, they must change NOW because he established an oversized position. Fuck that douche. He wants to create doubt and try to get Ackman squeezed on his short without even disclosing if he has skin in the game. A true hypocrite if ever there was one.

    The traders were sooo enamored with the spectacle.. oooh, ahhh, like they were watching fireworks. I guess their jobs do not require attentiveness

  6. Rightline says:

    It was also similar to Real Housewives of Wherever…

    I did find several things of interest in this soap opera episode.

    Icahn was accusing Ackman of playing Icahn’s game, but on the short side. How is it not manipulation when Icahn buys up a bunch of stock and then declares (threatens) his grandiose self serving, short sighted (but profitable for him) plans for the company? He demands Motorola or Clorox do this now, Navistar change it’s business plan, Chesapeak board seats, or Transocean pays a ransome dividend, or Hastings will listen to offers. All engineered to get a market reaction. He has no regard for the long time founders, employees, or shareholders. Only his self serving greedy interests. To hell with the 20 year plan this company is executing well, they must change NOW because he established an oversized position. Fuck that douche. He wants to create doubt and try to get Ackman squeezed on his short without even disclosing if he has skin in the game. A true hypocrite if ever there was one.

    The traders were sooo enamored with the spectacle.. oooh, ahhh, like they were watching fireworks. I guess their jobs do not require attentiveness

  7. lo574 says:

    Watching it live, as it unfolded I was not only shocked that CNBC basically stooped so low to grope for ratings but that the Twittersphere erupted with jubilation at such a circus. Jerry Springer is right and what’s next? Cramer with two fund managers battling it out in the octagon? Puhlease…..so much for professionalism. Bloomberg just earned a few more viewers.

  8. b_thunder says:

    I doubt that Mr Ritholtz will appear on CNBC anytime soon.

  9. eroldictat says:

    Like I said BR, best just to turn off CNBC and leave it off. Net negative value added.

  10. vbiersch says:

    Amen.

    What puzzles me is this.
    I read Reminiscences of a Stock Operator a very long time ago.
    For a long time I didn’t believe it was true, but then unz.org came out and I researched some of the articles and they were true.

    And in trying to understand what happened to the economy, and especially my economy, I’ve been researching it for some ten years now for my Keep America At Work site.

    One thing that sticks out is that we have been here before and everybody I have run into that is doing their own research has made that same comment.

    We basically are repeating everything that happened back in the 30′s all the way down to the cat fights in the media which makes me realize that we have learned nothing from history.

    Hopefully we will wake up before the 40′s…

  11. Carlton says:

    Best live TV ever!

  12. RW says:

    I saw that bit and only two things came to mind:

    It was moderately amusing but no biggie: Corporate media is increasingly bread and circuses these days so, yeah, those interested in real information will be able to turn it over to the AI machine for trend/sentiment analysis and ignore it otherwise (won’t that be a relief).

    and

    More specifically these two plutocratic chumps will be worm-food in a decade or two and won’t contribute any more or less to the fertilizer quotient than any other piece of decaying protein so, really, what boots it.

  13. A says:

    You are quite right Barry: the bulk of television programming is nothing more than salad dressing for the brain.
    Lots of flavor, with little nutritional content.

  14. Ponchovilla says:

    Turn on the TV and set the volume to mute. Very entertaining.
    The next time Barry visits with Kudlow he gets a mute button for Kudlow. Only Barry’s voice will prevail. Just dreaming for Barry. There will be no next time.

  15. ToNYC says:

    Did anyone care to note that Ackman was on a mission to rid the world of MLM distributor roulette now being exported to South America and Asia to capture the less sophisticated dollar? Just being a distributor with no edge in production or manufacturing is a joke as a business model, unless you play pyramid.
    Invention submission agents who flat out say making a profit on a patent idea is not likely and not typical are honest about it at least.

  16. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    Over the past few yeas, CNBC has convinced me that they are more about entertainment and ratings than informing the viewer.

  17. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    Over the past few years, CNBC has convinced me that they are more about entertainment and ratings than informing the viewer.

  18. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    @ToNYC – Did anyone care to note that Ackman was on a mission to rid the world of MLM distributor roulette now being exported to South America and Asia to capture the less sophisticated dollar?

    I did notice that apparent smokescreen that Mr. Ackman apparently seems to be blowing up my derriere in order to make a name for himself.

    If Mr. Ackman thinks a stock price will fall, then, by all means, short that stock.

    However, imo, Mr. Ackman has crossed a line. He has bet that he thinks the stock price will fall, then he appears to go on a publicity tour to affect the stock price in a negative direction.

    It is one thing to place a bet on a stock price declining. It is a whole different issue when it appears that one is trying to make the stock price decline via publicity.

  19. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    [aside] – I’ve been noticing some timeouts on this site over the past week or so. I post a comment, and I never get the acknowledgement that my post is OK. So I re-post it (occasionally with a spelling correction that I spotted while I was waiting for the acknowledgement). Are these timeouts due to the transition to the new format?

  20. Glen says:

    Just more cheesy reality TV. But it’s nice to see just how the MOTUs run the world.

  21. jmay says:

    Roger Clemens…
    Mitt Romney…
    Lance Armstrong…
    Carl Icahn…

    A parade of once-successful bullies being put in their place, and ending in disgrace.

    I like this trend.

  22. bobmitchell says:

    Coming up next, the poultry report-

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/32913196/Why_Chicken_Feet_Matter_to_Business_News

    It really can’t get any better, please note the author(s)

  23. ConscienceofaConservative says:

    Couldn’t agree more. The Icahn Ackman piece was right out of Jerry Springer. The financial networks particulaly CNBC cater to the lowest common denominator either orchestrating fights or moderators ganging up on guests they don’t agree with , or giving other guests a free pass to say anything they want unchallenged. Not journalism at all but low quality entertainment.

  24. denim says:

    “GeorgeBurnsWasRight Says” has it right. But just think, it has been going on at least since the Roman Empire days. TV has, to some extent, replaced the amphitheater. http://www.thomasjamesmartin.com/breadcircus.htm

  25. CrazyHorse says:

    No matter your fortune, big or small.. the ego will trump them all!

  26. lburgler says:

    It’s like Nietzsche said, it’s in the nature of the strong ones to be alone. Like sharks or birds of prey they repel each other by virtue of themselves. The man of resentiment (spelling on purpose) huddles with his brethren for warmth, and a little taste of power, yet still inscribed within the dominance of the common foe.

    Are you not now sufficiently famous and important to duly spit upon us like the other lonely glittering masters of the universe, Barry?

    We welcome you into our clump of bilious small town values, etc., or at least we do so mendaciously. But dont you frankly sympathize more readily with the bombastic ego of those who succeeded at your task?

  27. TLH says:

    Like the Wizard of OZ. The curtain was pulled back. We trust these people to invest our money?

  28. Born Again says:

    Ackman has a well known position on the Hong Kong dollar moving from a US dollar peg to a Chinese Renminbi peg.

  29. ToNYC says:

    @CrazyHorse
    “No matter your fortune, big or small.. the ego will trump them all!”

    that should give you a clue,
    what to do,
    if you want to keep a fortune.

  30. DeDude says:

    @Bob is still unemployed,

    The timeouts are supposed to be triggered by certain words (and maybe a few other things like rapid fire postings). But I think the system sometimes make random errors. For the users the filters have helped make this site easier to read and with much less time wasted on silly stuff. The flip side of that coin, is that you every now and then write something that get delayed in being posted.

  31. Robert M says:

    Don’t dump the TV. I’ll never forget the PHLX specialists getting raped by Dan Dorfman in the 90′s, which is what really brought cable TV to the masses.

  32. 873450 says:

    Two scavengers posturing and yapping at each other over the carcass of a sick animal neither wants to survive. One wants to sell off pieces before it dies. The other just wants it dead ASAP.

    A bit more authentic than anything involving Trump, but still just faux-reality TV gossip disguised as financial news force fed to entertain a passive, brainwashed audience.

    Check out the Animal Planet, Wild Kingdom and National Geographic channels. The jungle is real, not contrived. The jackals, hyenas, vultures and maggots are real.

  33. Disinfectant says:

    BR wrote: “But this Soap Opera had nothing whatsoever to do with investing or trading.”

    Virtually nothing you see on CNBC will help you be a better investor or trader. At least this had some entertainment value. But good God, Icahn is an asshat.

  34. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    @DeDude – “The timeouts are supposed to be triggered…”

    Thanks for the explanation.