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Moonves Says CBS Is Interested in Buying CNN If Available

Leslie Moonves says his CBS Corp. is interested in buying the CNN news channel if it becomes available. Getting between Rupert Murdoch and Time Warner Inc. is another matter.

Moonves, who spoke to reporters today at a Television Critics Association event in Beverly Hills, California, said in the past he’s discussed “doing something with CNN,” the pioneering cable channel owned by New York-based Time Warner, with his CBS News on broadcast. Combining the operations would allow them to share resources and save money.

While expressing interest in CNN, Moonves suggested he wouldn’t be interested in teaming up with Time Warner in a broader transaction. Time Warner shares jumped this week on news that Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. made an unsolicited $75 billion bid for the company. One option suggested by analysts for Time Warner, which rejected the offer, is to combine with another media company such as New York-based CBS.

“Nobody ever competes well against Rupert,” Moonves said.

Murdoch, who is known for his tenacity in pursuing deals, would be willing to sell CNN as part of his plan to acquire New York-based Time Warner, a person with knowledge of the situation said this week.

Time Warner surged 17 percent yesterday. Smaller media companies including CBS also have seen their shares rise with the expectation that a deal for Time Warner would usher in a wave of consolidation among media companies.

Being ‘Nimble’

CBS, controlled by Chairman Sumner Redstone, has advanced 3.6 percent in the past two days. The shares rose 1.3 percent to $61.63 today in New York.

The company, which owns Showtime on cable along with the broadcast network, recently spun off its billboard business, bringing the company cash that could be used for deals.

“We’re in a very advantageous position,” said Moonves, who is chief executive officer. “Our balance sheet is very good.”

Industry consolidation won’t pressure CBS to get bigger and compete with “monoliths,” Moonves said. CBS prefers to “be nimble,” he said.

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