Time Warner CEO Bewkes Says CNN Talked to News Organizations for Partners

Time Warner Inc.’s CNN cable-news channel has discussed partnerships with news outlets and could reach an agreement in the next year, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said.

“It’s no secret that we’ve talked to other news organizations in the past,” Bewkes said today on a conference call. “It’s entirely possible that the parties, and there could be other parties, could come to an arrangement that makes sense before the next 12 months.”

CNN and CBS Corp. news executives have discussed ways the companies could combine operations to cut costs, New York magazine reported yesterday. Talks occurred in recent weeks, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified executives who had been briefed. CBS and Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting announced a $10.8 billion deal on April 22 to share the cost of carrying the March Madness college basketball tournament.

Jeff Ballabon, a CBS News spokesman, declined to comment.

Network news outfits are reducing payrolls in response to lower viewership and declining ad revenue. Walt Disney Co.’s ABC News reduced 400 positions, the New York Times reported on April 30. CBS, in last place in evening news for 12 years, cut 90 positions this year and began shuttering bureaus outside the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reported.

In March, CNN averaged 459,000 viewers a day, less than half of rival Fox News Channel’s 1.29 million, according to Nielsen Co. data. CNN’s audience shrank 28 percent from the year-earlier period.

Combined, the network news broadcasts at NBC, CBS and ABC are attracting 3.3 percent fewer viewers this season than the previous one, according to Nielsen data.

Broadcast ‘Imperatives’

CNN is working with “all of the candidates,” Bewkes said. The talks aren’t driven by a “CNN issue,” he said.

“It’s really more because of imperatives at the broadcast news companies,” Bewkes said. “There’s a lot of financial strength at CNN that essentially puts us in a pretty good position, offering a solution to the cost problems and the profit squeeze that goes on in network news.”

Time Warner, the New York-based owner of Warner Bros. film studio and the HBO premium cable channel, slid 67 cents to $32.00 at 2:16 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, after reporting first-quarter results.

CBS, owner of the most-watched U.S. broadcast television network, dropped 46 cents to $15.74. The New York-based media company reports results today after U.S. markets close.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Rabil in New York at srabil@bloomberg.net; or Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

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