Disney President and CEO Bob Iger said this morning that ABC News decided against partnering with CNN years ago because they were interested in a "true joint venture," and not "outsourcing" their newsgathering, as CBS may do.
"We were not interested in anything like [the CBS arrangement]," Iger told The New Yorker's Ken Auletta at a breakfast talk at the Plaza Hotel.
Iger also confirmed that, although Disney/ABC is at a disadvantage without a cable news partner, they are not interested in acquiring one. Instead, Iger said, the lack of a cable partner only puts more pressure on ABCNews.com to be a great digital news destination.
"People at ABC News control their own destiny," Iger said, referencing the company's ability to contend with the shift to digital media.
Iger also dismissed the notion that the FCC should encourage more media ownership diversity, a position espoused by presidential candidate Barack Obama. "There's never been greater diversity in media," Iger said, arguing that the internet and the proliferation of media has made it more difficult for any single media owner to have a monopoly on a local market. "I laugh at [the notion]. It's a joke."
Iger would not comment on whether ABC would be interested in pursuing "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno when his NBC contract expires next year. Iger instead deferred to ABC Television President Anne Sweeney, who did not speak on the matter.
Sweeney was seated at the head table along with ESPN President George Bodenheimer and ABC News President David Westin, prompting host Auletta to remark, "I haven't seen this many smiling ABC faces since Michael Ovitz left."
Iger also addressed the Wall Street community in attendance — which included Merrill Lynch's Jessica Reif Cohen and Pali Capital Research's Richard Greenfield — but cautioned that he would not give any indication as to Disney's first quarter earnings report or Walt Disney World advanced booking data prior to next month's announcement.
Other power-players in attendance included Sony's Howard Stringer, the Carlyle Group's Norm Pearlstine, The New Yorker's David Remnick, Fortune's Patti Sellers, and MTV's John Sykes.
The breakfast was hosted by Syracuse's Newhouse School of Communications, in conjunction with The New Yorker and Condé Nast, as part of the Newhouse School in New York series.