Deadpan actor and much-derided financial commentator Ben Stein has a long article in Best Life Magazine this week in which he speculates about why there are so many attractive women on TV business news channels these days. You can practically see Stein's drool spattered about the pages of the article, and he's drawn some (justified) mockery for the leering tone of the story. But he does raise an interesting question about the profusion of "Money Honeys" on TV. Compare that to the situation in sports broadcasting; it's full of ex-jocks and men's men, not Fox-branded eye candy. Why the discrepancy between the two traditionally male provinces of business and sports TV? You have come to the correct place to hear a theory.
Stein says in his conclusion:
Watching money shows is largely a men's game. Men watch CNBC and the other business outlets more than women do. Someday it may change, and then maybe a magazine like Cosmopolitan will ask me to write a piece about money hunks. But for now, it's us pig men watching the money shows, in general, and we want to see women.
The first part of his statement is correct—men make up the majority of biz show viewers. The second part is partially correct—men like to see pretty women. But those facts together don't really explain anything.
Major sports broadcasting is dominated by ESPN, which is dominated by male personalities. Former professional athletes know that sports broadcasting is one of the sweetest gigs they can get when they retire, and they fill the ranks of the shows, from ESPN to the networks to smaller cable channels, from football to baseball to basketball to golf. Lots of sports shows and coverage of games trots out a token female—usually, yes, a beautiful woman called on to speak about the weather or chat with coaches at halftime or something equally irrelevant. There certainly are respected female sports broadcasters who have made their way through the ranks based on talent alone, but they are a decided minority. On the other hand, many of the most high profile male ex-athlete broadcasters are stone cold idiots.
I won't waste the space here arguing the point.
But as Stein also points out, that is not the case in business news. Fox Business and, to a lesser extent, CNBC are dominated not by crusty old retired male hedge fund managers, but by vivacious young attractive women. If it were simply a matter of broadcasters appealing to horny men like Ben Stein, there would be nothing but pretty women on both sports and business shows.
None of this implies that a network couldn't, if it wanted to, fill both its sports and business shows with an even mix of truly talented men and women. Rather, it implies that networks pander to what they perceive their audience wants.
The evidence points to one inescapable conclusion: Men take sports more seriously than they take business. Logical? No. True? Yes. American men would revolt if they felt that their sports broadcasters weren't sufficiently informed about the intricacies of the line stunt, the pick and roll, and the knuckle curve; but Wall Street men have no problem getting their business news—which could decide the fate of millions in investments—from women chosen primarily for their beauty.
Are there women on TV who are beautiful, intelligent, and well-informed about business? Yes. Maria Bartiromo comes to mind. But nobody can seriously argue that Fox combed the highest echelons of the finance community with only business acumen in mind to pick their broadcast team (you can scroll through here).
So, American man's warped perspective: Sports, important, Wall Street, whatever. At least as far as TV concerned. I'm glad that my own personal perspective is far more balanced, and if you don't pick Memphis in the tournament you are a fucking fool, so suck it Dick Vitale!