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CNN names Stuart Varney, Willow Bay to host 'Moneyline'

NEW YORK (AP) -- It took two people to replace Lou Dobbs on CNN's "Moneyline."

The cable news network moved quickly to fill a vacuum in its most profitable program on Tuesday, appointing Stuart Varney and Willow Bay as co-anchors of the nightly business wrap-up show.In two weeks, they will replace Dobbs, who left unexpectedly earlier this month to join an Internet startup firm.

CNN is also set to unveil a $25 million advertising campaign in support of "Moneyline" and its other programs that features personalities like New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens and Virgin Airlines' founder Richard Branson.

Although its audience is small compared to broadcast network shows, CNN's "Moneyline" is among the most profitable programs on television because it attracts so many corporate executives and investors.

After Dobbs left, the financial news network CNBC immediately sought to take advantage by expanding its "Business Center" program to an hour, competing directly with "Moneyline." CNBC has also started its own aggressive marketing campaign touting anchors Ron Insana and Sue Herera.

While CNN wanted to make the right decision on who should replace Dobbs, it also wanted to move swiftly, said Steve Korn, vice chairman of the CNN News Group.

"Whenever you have a show that is as important to a network as 'Moneyline' is to us, it's an important decision and one you shouldn't dither with," he said.

Korn said CNN wanted to appoint an anchor team, instead of one person, to give the network flexibility to send them on assignments.

Varney, 50, worked at CNN for 18 years before leaving last year to go on the lecture circuit. He had been anchor of the network's early-morning financial news programming.

Bay, a former ABC News reporter, has been host of CNN financial and entertainment newsmagazines and has filled in for Dobbs since he left.

"My excitement meter has gone up a great deal," Varney said. "This is the premier financial news program on television today and it therefore represents a great opportunity."

He may have fewer opportunities for public speaking; a CNN ethics panel determines whether employees can take outside speaking engagements and will decide, case by case, whether Varney can make speeches, Korn said.

A CNBC spokesman had no comment on the move.

In its first week of head-to-head competition as hour-long shows, "Moneyline" had an average audience of 293,000 households and "Business Center" was at 238,000, according to Nielsen Media Research.