CNBC’s 2005 Christmas Gift – Garbage Packaging

On the week of aprox. December 16th, 2005, CNBC had rolled out a new brand that replaced the fun, flirty, edgy, aggressive package that was used when they relocated from Fort Lee to Englewood Cliffs, N.J. CNBC had been a close tie to Pyburn Films, a motion graphics design firm. They had done promos for CNBC before, and their previous graphics package before they moved. Whoever at CNBC was running promotions, apparently loves blue. Dark blue. Sick blue. Sick Building Syndrome Blue.

Before we go to late 2005 (of which I had watched a lot that first week of it’s new look because I believe I caught the flu, one of two instances before I caught COVID a year ago to the day.)

Late 2003 – December 2005


an image of the CNBC newsroom circa 2005
Who could not be attracted with this highly visually stimuli that was of CNBC?

CNBC rolled out an entire modern look approximately during Columbus Day, 2003 (markets are open on that day)  that was completely different from any other package prior to. If you follow my social media platforms, I have been more open of my autistic condition. Most folks on the spectrum want low fi stuff.  While I might be 90% feminine (the male-girlfriend figure I am), the 10% is when it comes to being turned on high stimuli on graphics, and theme music especially when it comes to markets, and things being neatly organized to provide meaningful data to consume, consume and did I say more to consume?

a screengrab from CNBC from mid 2005 with an intraday chart with Bob Pisani on the right.
This chart generator system is likely from the Silicon Graphics system CNBC acquired in 1999 that followed the change of graphics packages over the years. The areas of the grey gradients was coming from that computer and was keyed into CNBC’s switch.

615 Music had a lot do with the auditory branding of CNBC at the time of the move. Characterized by your humble writer as fast paced, energetic, head bopping, aggressive, but some times soft, when it warranted. It is believed that 615 also composed CNBC’s 1998 theme package that lasted from early 1998 to the fall of 2000. 615 nails it when it comes to daypart themes: Wake Up Call was soft melody to act as the alarm clock that you do not want to snooze, Squawk Box had the pre trading vibe that gets ya into the markets, Morning Call couldn’t wait to give you the latest on the street after The Opening Bell; Power Lunch lived up to it’s long lunch break melody, Street Signs (originally used for Business Center that ended in late 2003, surviving 2 months in E.C.) had an authoritative tone; the Closing Bell had the “final hour of the trading day” rush. High strung a/f.  Kudlow & Cramer had after hours tune (but was originally used for Open Exchange that ran at 2:00 ET, ended in late 2003 like Business Center.)  Each program had it’s own theme, and it’s own bumpers (the music going into and out of a break)


a screengrab of the Squawk Box Open from 2005
The talent open circa 2005. From my memory, CNBC used a “cold open” that had no voice over or talent. The talent open for Squawk ran at the top of 7, 8 and 9 am ET for most of 2005.

Whether the theme or graphics was synced up, it matched the energy. The graphics in 2003 was actually off-fashion, using flat 2 dimensional graphics (meaning there would be one dimension of a graphical object, and the text with a drop shadow would give it the 2D look.) Tabs used as the feature segment was not in style at the time either, with 45° ends, which resembled a package CNBC used in the mid 90s. CNBC reverted back to flat arrows in 2003, and the 3D arrows for up and down issues that lasted for about 4 years disappeared. But it was compensated by the substance that was retained.

I guess we can thank CNBC’s creative services department for OK’ing the worst look known to CNBC in December of 2005 that set the precedence of extremely low testosterone and estrogen sound and looks. I guess living in 2050 in 2022 is apparently what the viewers want. All I want is to get turned on and watch some highly visually and auditory stimulating business news that isn’t cutting corners! 

CNBC was also using Pinnacle’s Deko graphics system (later to be acquired by Avid), that exploited a lot of the fast paced nature of graphics. Not to mention in 2005, before the infamous change, any lower third that had some high alert, had a sounder play out likely from the Deko. I also remember the “CNBC Doorbell” sound when an earnings alert would appear on the lower third. Why do I say “Doorbell” because the chimes had a more doorbell pitch to it.  Headshots were all covered in a blue tint, so yeah blue was used a bit too but not in the excessive match.

a screengrab of CNBC in 2005 featuring it's graphics package and a live shot at the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
2005, CNBC’s Graphics also got bells and whistles to the litteral context. Banners would pop in with a some noisy, catchy, stingers for those 2 seconds. But this would be the precursor to the late 05 repackaged design.

The set design was the ultimate perfect match too. It had warm colors. It looked very modern and would’ve aged well if CNBC left them the hell alone. When I first saw it, I thought it was skywindow. Like in Fort Lee, CNBC had an anchor desk that would rotate 360° similar to the contestants row in Press Your Luck. For someone who was in high school hormonally imbalanced, the high sex appeal of business news really drew you in. Remember the substance of the reporting always came first (or a close second depending on your mood!) 

a screengrab of CNBC's Power Lunch, a jib camera shot of it's newsroom in late 2005.
That newsroom was just plain sexy as hell! And acts as an inspiration for the BCOP-TV Newsplex

I had posted two theme and graphics packages on Instagram last week on this theme; because I was focusing on how enforcing style with substance can make a killer success. And even the most stylish graphics couldn’t hold a candle in the substance.

But with CNBC, nothing can last forever (or so I thought.)

December 2005

That Friday before, The Final Countdown played as a bumper on the last block of Wake Up Call indicating changes. The following couple days in the weekend, the set designers went into CNBC’s newsroom and replaced all the paneling that was of the vibrant colors. CNBC nixed Wake Up Call, which was the first warning of some major changes were pending. A spinoff program called Squawk on The Street would debut with Erin Burnett, who had just came from the Bloomberg Tower across the Hudson, doing the midday show. This program enabled CNBC to retain Mark Haines, and pair him up with Erin, of which when she left in 2011, Mark had passed away just a couple weeks after. The whole purpose of broadcasting from the New York Stock Exchange was so Mark Haines could evade contact with mis management so he could continue whatever shtick made the show a success.

CNBC paid Pyburn about a million dollars to commission a extremely CGI, Star Trek meets Finance, and substance (like the NYSE Most Actives, the advance to decline ratios or bond quotes) were shrinked into these weird 3D boxes, and charts taking up less space to compensate for the bloated CGI garbage. At this point, CNBC was likely still using the Deko which was an advanced Windows NT workstation with the horsepower to output SD graphics. Every time a lower third came on, it had to have some Star Trek like sound. A lot of chrome stuff, and just not enough fulfilling information without some sexy graphics to turn you on and tune you into the markets. Not only that, the graphics package only lasted a year. ArtWorks, NBC’s internal graphics department designed the next package, that was more tolerable and more elegant, but again keyword tolerable.

The theme package was commissioned by Rampage Music, which was notoriously known for the 2008 Gannett theme package nicknamed by the news nerd community as “broken fax machine theme”. Unlike Quarter Past Six, each open had it’s own theme, but whoever was running the audio board had up to 8 cuts to use for bumpers.  The theme package was retained up until late October 2014, when CNBC went to full HD and used it’s current look, which was no different than December 2005. This package made it CNBC’s longest used at the time.  But 615’s themes were still used as stingers (like K&C’s original theme used in The Opening Buzz stinger)

Just for kicks, CNBC’s lobby, that resembled the newsroom dating back to 2003 had been unchanged! Some elements where CNBC used to lobby to do live shots of Fast Money fantasy games, as late as 2018 confirmed this.

The Rogue’s Gallery

In the mid 2000s, graphical styles on cable news went on a more sexier level. More sounds, more animations. Adobe’s AfterEffects and Photoshop replaced many of the Quantel Paintbox and Harriet systems. Things were more “3D”, but 3D in character generation is different from CGI.

3D effects was in these days

  • 1 or more elements of text, and it’s primary color
  • the “Drop shadow” effect
  • A graphical element with shadows and shapes.

The 2003 package was actually a bit regressive, with 45° banners and “flat” graphics that had a primary color with no shadow or effects.

The Power Lunch Open with an element of CNBC’s ticker showing company name plus it’s ticker, with lots of drop shadows and gradients – in the ticker space! Fllater is better for scrolling text
The full screen graphics was actually regressive less space for text so CNBC and wh-re the screen with Star-Trekery.
It was unclear what the charting system CNBC was using, but SGI was more niche, and the new chart system drew everything in real time, and it had a database of logos for the company. Perhaps it was Pinnacle/Avid’s Thunder that did full screen graphics?

Ironically this graphics package only lasted just a year. By the end of 2006, CNBC commissioned an in-house graphics package done by the ArtWorks unit. Actually, it had a more tolerable look, but over the years CNBC went more blue, and doubled down on blue, blue lights on blue Duratrans.

January 2019

While Street Signs was becoming legal age, it was a dying little dog (it debut in 1996, a hiatus from early 2002 to late 2003), CNBC moved Power Lunch to 2:00 pm ET (which was actually done before in that said timeframe) so Kelly Evans could get a midday gig, instead of counting down The Closing Bell. The theme is very identical to something that I think sounds like…

The Street Signs era of 2003!

Just over 13 flipping years, CNBC answered the prayers that all of us fans who had to desperately tolerate CNBC’s shallow looks. Also interesting to note, The Exchange had it’s own graphics package… oh did I say resembles something similar the color palette of the 2003 look?


The problem was CNBC did not move this look or theme to other day parts. CNBC just went forward with abstract garbage and unoriginal graphics design, with extremely low sex appeal, pleasing the boring and unoriginal Millenial generation that doesn’t want to be bothered to be stimulated vis a vis Dekos, Chyrons and kickass theme packages. In 2020, their creative folks created an updated Closing Bell and a “new” 11:00 am show called Tech Check (in case you didn’t know, that was a name for a segment to cover technology news, and it was name of their tech blog for a number of years). The Tech Check theme is like some loud twentysomething who thinks they are the it-thing and yet hasn’t done a damn thing to really contribute to society.

On a positive note, The News With Shepard Smith, uses the Street Signs/The Exchange theme to play out for the 60 second business news report. The overall theme is actually custom composed by Stephen Arnold Music.

I guess we can thank CNBC’s creative services department for OK’ing the worst look known to CNBC in December of 2005 that set the precedence of extremely low testosterone and estrogen sound and looks. I guess living in 2050 in 2022 is apparently what the viewers want. All I want is to get turned on and watch some highly visually and auditory stimulating business news that isn’t cutting corners!

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