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CBS, CNN Deny "Outsourcing" Rumor

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CBS is denying — or at least downplaying — the New York Times report that it is in talks to outsource its newsgathering operation to CNN.

The New York Times reports in today's paper:

CBS, the home of the most storied news division in broadcasting, has been in discussions with Time Warner about a deal to outsource some of its newsgathering operations to CNN, two executives briefed on the matter said Monday.

Over the last decade, CNN has held on-again, off-again talks with both ABC News and CBS News about various joint ventures but during the last several months, talks with CBS have been revived and lately intensified, according to the executives who were granted anonymity because of the confidential nature of the negotiations.

Broadly speaking, the executives described conversations about reducing CBS's newsgathering capacity while keeping its frontline personalities, like Katie Couric, the CBS Evening News anchor, and paying a fee to CNN to buy the cable network's news feeds.

However, West Coast outlets Hollywood Reporter and Variety both report that CBS is denying the report.

From Variety:

But insiders at the two companies downplayed a report posted on the New York Times' website Monday afternoon suggesting that CBS was considering a deal to "outsource" most of its newsgathering operations to CNN.

"We're extremely satisfied with and proud of our newsgathering operation. No outside arrangements are being negotiated," a CBS News spokeswoman said in response to the New York Times story. A CNN rep could not be immediately reached for comment.

From Hollywood Reporter:

The most recent discussions had to do with a pool arrangement between CBS and CNN in Baghdad, where each network spends millions of dollars in newsgathering. Those talks also broke down. There was never any discussion about on-air sharing.

Talks between CNN and two networks, CBS and ABC, are nothing new. Although the executives at the top have changed, CBS and CNN have discussed sharing news resources as far back as 1998, when then-CEO Mel Karmazin was running CBS. ABC had more recent strong discussions about merging with CNN in 2002. But as ABC News president David Westin noted at last month's Media Summit in New York, an ABC-CNN association wasn't in the cards.

Under McManus' predecessor, Andrew Heyward, the network seemed solidly behind throwing the money and effort that it would have done on a cable channel toward broadband. In fact, a revamped CBSNews.com unveiled in 2005 was hailed by Heyward and online chief Larry Kramer as a "cable bypass" that would give it the benefits of a news channel without the need to worry about finding distribution. But since then, Heyward and Kramer have left the company, and the network's news division remains in third place.