CNBC's Fast Money
Bitcoin,  Media

CNBC show smacks down jilted bitcoin bear

Technical analyst Peter Brandt claims he was booted from Fast Money but the show is fighting back hard.

While we’re on a roll when it comes to Twitter-based media feuds, here’s another one, this time involving CNBC and technical analyst Peter Brandt. And it’s kinda weird.

On Saturday, Brandt took to Twitter to tell this tale:

Except, contrary to Brandt’s preface of “true story,” it didn’t happen. And Fast Money wasn’t having any of it. On Tuesday, they shot back this tweet, replete with the sort of all caps found on a Baby Boomer’s political Facebook posts:


That last line was, objectively, a bit harsh. Brandt has 160,000 Twitter followers—lower than Fast Money’s 220,000—but respectable nonetheless.

As expected, that unconventional response from a network news program caught the attention of the Twitterverse:

And the obligatory:

This wasn’t the first time Fast Money tweeted something saucy for an NBC news show. In December, they featured Roger Ver, known as “Bitcoin Jesus” and the leading evangelist for Bitcoin Cash, and promoted the appearance on Twitter. That angered some in the bitcoin community, with one upset person tweeting:

The response from Fast Money was controversial and is now legendary:

Getting back to Brandt, he quickly realized that he accused the wrong CNBC show of kicking him off its schedule. He tweeted an apology and an email from Squawk on the Street, a show that appears several hours before Fast Money:

Indeed, Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya appeared on Squawk on the Street and gave a forecast of bitcoin hitting $1 million in the next two decades. A week later, bitcoin peaked close to $20,000 and is currently futzing around the $11,000 level.

For the uninitiated, Fast Money is an “ensemble business news show” airing on CNBC after the U.S. equity markets close. A host and three or four traders give their trading ideas, look at a few charts, and shoot the breeze for an hour before Jim Cramer’s Mad Money airs. They’ll often have guests, usually a fund manager or an analyst or someone else with a strong opinion. That’s key with such programs—retired dentists in Palm Beach looking are always looking for tips. They’re supposed to be a bit different from CNBC’s other business day shows, which feature more newsmakers and business leader rather than people with price targets on stocks or metals.

We don’t know for certain how popular these “ensemble business news shows” are versus conventional business news shows on an apples-to-apples basis. CNBC stopped using Nielsen three years ago on the grounds that it wasn’t truly covering everyone who may be watching on shrinking trading floors, their gym treadmills, or, well, the waiting room of dentists planning on retiring to Palm Beach where they’ll trade from their homes. Instead, CNBC uses the smaller Cogent Reports. Nielsen nonetheless still measures it and they show Fox Business beating CNBC on a regular basis during the business day when trading shows air. However, the tables are turned during primetime, when CNBC switches to Jay Leno’s Garage and reruns of Shark Tank.

Most importantly, ensemble shows are popular with sponsors that benefit from more trades. For instance, TD Ameritrade sponsors CNBC’s Options Action—which is a straight-up trading show—on Friday evenings. Fast Money Halftime Report is an expansion of the Fast Money franchise airing during the market day because some people just can’t wait until the end of trading to have a person they’ve never met tell them where to put their money.

The distinctions between regular news shows, ensemble news shows, and trading shows are not so pronounced for many viewers or guests. That’s an important part of the story.

[Disclosure: This writer produced an online trading show for CNBC for a couple of years with some on the team that currently produces “Fast Money,” though this piece offers no useful insights.]

CNBC has gotten the cryptocurrency bug. Every show—news or trading—can’t help but mention bitcoin at least once a day. It’s more volatile than equities or most commodities, so there’s always a dramatic “lower third” or chart to get people’s attention when the sound is turned down at the dentist’s office. Tales of huge riches and massive losses are too good for most producers to pass up.

Fast Money is especially prone to crypto-crazed stories, and that has occasionally led to some mockery on Reddit and industry publications. So it would seem entirely plausible for Fast Money to bump bearish Brandt for a bitcoin bull but the show that did, Squawk on The Street, has a very different format and isn’t all about trading ideas.

Brandt has yet to respond to an inquiry by Modern Consensus.

It remains to be seen if Brandt will ever be invited back on CNBC but memories can be long at the organization. For a technical analyst with products to sell, not being able to appear on one of the few all-business TV networks is bad for business and a reminder that if one is thinking to air dirty laundry in public, one should get the facts right first.

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Lawrence Lewitinn, CFA was the founding editor in chief of Modern Consensus. Disclosure: Lewitinn owns no cryptocurrencies in his portfolio.