CBS, CNN may combine news operations


CBS News and Time Warner’s CNN are reportedly in negotiations about striking a news-gathering partnership. The talks are centered on how their two news divisions can combine ops, cut costs and expand audiences for both networks. The recent 400 layoffs at ABC News, current tanking CNN ratings, shrinking evening-news audiences, etc., are driving the most recent talks, which have been going on for a couple of months now. Both networks could use each other’s news footage, combine bureaus in Washington and overseas and share editing, production and transmitting gear.

CBS President Les Moonves initiated the latest round of bargaining, according to The NY Post, when it became apparent that the network was going to have to cut far more than the reported 100 network news staffers who were let go last January.

Katie Couric’s $15 million a year contract as anchor of the CBS Evening News will expire next year and CBS will likely not re-sign her at anything close to that. There have also been reports that that Couric is interested in taking over Larry King’s CNN show if offered the role. CNN’s Anderson Cooper is also nearing the end of his contract with the network. His nightly show is struggling in the ratings, but his popularity would make him a good candidate for the evening news anchor job at CBS.

CBS News has previously expressed interest in recruiting Cooper, who already appears as a contributor to 60 Minutes. And next May, A combined CBS-CNN might offer more possibilities to negotiate Couric’s new deal while giving her additional opportunities to showcase her interviews.

The good news is unlike Comcast and NBC, this type of merger wouldn’t need any government approval. The bad news is union issues and the decision of which side would run the combined entity could be a tough road.

New York magazine, which first reported the start of merger talks, said that “60 Minutes” would not be part of the deal.

RBR-TVBR observation: As bad as it is for traditional news operations, this kind of a merger could mean less news variety and less information and opinion for the viewing public to consume. We’re sure they could make it work, but bottom line there will be one final decision maker on what goes on the screen, rather than two. The talks are happening almost congruently with the CBS Sports-Time Warner/TBS $10.8 billion deal to broadcast the NCAA basketball championship for the next 14 years.