CNNfn was a U.S.
cable television newsnetwork operated by Time Warnerfrom December 29, 1995to December 15, 2004. The network was dedicated to covering financial marketsand business news.
It was available in a number of markets, including the U.S. and Australia. In Canada, much of its content screened on ROB TV (now BNN).
After years of struggling to attract an audience, Time Warner folded CNNfn in late 2004. On some U.S. cable television systems, its slot was given to
CNN Internationalon a full-time basis; previously, CNN International filled CNNfn's schedule in late-nights and weekends. The last few hours of CNNfn's last day, was, in fact, CNN International programming, as CNNfn's programming itself ended for good at noon ET.
Lou Dobbsand Ted Turnerwere having heated internal discussions about the direction of CNN. Dobbs was able to convince Turner that letting him start a new channel would be a way to solve both issues. Turner would keep Dobbs working for CNN while giving him his own network to run.
In July, 1999 Dobbs quit CNNfn and started his own company,
Space.com. Dobbs would eventually return to CNN and " Lou Dobbs Tonight" is today one of the network's top-rated shows.
From the start CNNfn struggled to be picked up by local and national cable operators. In
2004the official CNNfn network was shut down. However the technologies invented in the early CNNfn days helped launch CNN and the entire broadcasting industry into a new digital era. The CNNfn.com website continued on, and in 2001 merged with Money Magazine to form CNN/Money.
CNNfn inaugurated many innovations on TV and online. Many of these helped the Internet and broadcasting industry become what they are today. Just a few of these accomplishments include:
*The first fully digital studio in the world. From the digital cameras to the production room and beyond, the CNNfn network was the first professional broadcasting fully digital studio ever built. Unlike all other studios at the time, CNNfn could control all cameras with a single joystick. CNNfn claimed the joystick operator was a computer trained worker, not a
camera operator. To make this happen, CNNfn worked closely with Avid Systemsin creating some of their own first generation broadcasting solutions. Additionally CNNfn and Avid worked with Apple Computerto create a hacked version of the Mac operating system as no other system at that time could handle the throughput requirements of real-time digital video editing. Due to these advancements, CNNfn had many issues with labor unions. The unions claimed that the joystick operator should be worth four times as much as a normal camera operator and thus unionized workers should be paid accordingly.
*The first online stock quote engine. CNNfn worked with
S&P Comstockand Townsendto convert what was then a special direct connection to the stock market into a real-time data feed that could be used by the CNNfn.com website. Prior to this, ticker symbol lookups were typically reserved for private firms and not generally available.
*The first automated on-air
ticker. Other broadcasters were showing a moving ticker, however the data from these were edited and typed by hand. Therefore, the lag time in the data being displayed to a view was unpredictable. CNNfn was the first to automatically tap into the ticker feed and create an engine that would "auto-select" hot stocks and use other prioritization policies to automatically display the most relevant stocks.
*The first with advertising campaign management. The online advertising market was just being invented while CNNfn's website was being launched. Prior to CNNfn, the online advertising market primarily used weighting for ad rotations. This would provide a specific advertiser a percentage of views for each page the ad was displayed. CNNfn worked with industry leader
NetGravityto develop the first policy engine that would allow CNNfn.com to target advertisements based on demographics and other known data points.
*The first to utilize streaming media with broadcast video. At the time, Real Networks, VDONet and
VXtremewere startup companies in the streaming media space. No broadcaster saw the Internet as a viable way to reach their audience and they all believed their content to be too valuable to broadcast over the Internet for free. In late 1996, CNNfn.com published 1-2 hours of its programming each day within minutes after the actual show had aired on TV.
*The first to utilize
Layer 7load balancing to scale. At the time, DNS round-robin with weighted nodes to account for servers with more or less power or connectivity was the only way to scale a web farm. CNNfn was working closely with Netscape by also helping the write portions of their software which was incorporated into their 2.x product line. Round robin was not fast enough at taking a server out of rotation when Netscape would crash. Thus CNNfn worked with a few vendors to implement a Layer 7 solution that would instantly know when a server was up or down. This dramatically increased the speed and quality of the CNNfn and CNN websites.
*The first to fully automate publishing. By working with
Lotus Software, CNNfn was the first to use a database back end system to automate the work flow of a publishing system. At that time, even the Wall Street Journal, another startup website, used webmasters to hand convert articles from the editors into HTMLand to get them approved by hand through e-mail or visual confirmation from a manager. The web master would then post the story onto the website and edit the referring page to add a link to the new document. CNNfn worked with Lotus's Domino product to fully automate the draft, approval and auto-publishing of its articles. The website was completely automated in re-writing its static home page with the latest stories. As an industry first, this method was published in a few major magazines and studies by others. Within months after its initial deployment, CNN revamped their own website publishing methods and cut its web master count from 15 to three.
In the summer of 1996 the top two technology members of Lou Dobb's team, Sam Edge and Nils Lahr, threatened to quit CNNfn if changes were not made to allow them more creative control in implementing new technologies. Additionally they wanted some level of credit and increased internal recognition through proposed promotions. Dobbs tried to keep these key members of the team at CNNfn by offering them higher wages and even went as far as to suggest that he would create an entire company dedicated to high technology research in connection with
Gartnersuch that the advancements that were made would become knowledge that could be sold to others. However Dobbs was unable to make this happen quickly inside of CNN as there was resistance from Turner and others. In late 1996, Edge moved to CNN in Atlanta and Lahr left to join the startup company VXtremewhich was later purchsed by Microsoft and became what is now the Windows Media components within Windows. Dobbs made a last ditch attempt to keep Nils inside CNN by attempting to sue him claiming there were "important" and "unfinished" duties that required his attention at CNNfn. However the lawsuit was thrown out and Lahr was allowed to leave. Shortly after Dobbs quit CNNfn and as promised started his own company Space.com.
* [http://money.cnn.com CNN/Money]
* [http://money.cnn.com/2004/12/14/commentary/wastler/wastler/?cnn=yes News article about the network's closing]
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