CBS denies CNN deal talk

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NEW YORK -- CBS News on Monday denied that the network was in talks with CNN on a partnership that would cut CBS' newsgathering capability.

"We are extremely satisfied with and proud of our newsgathering operation," a CBS News spokeswoman said Monday. "No outside arrangement is being negotiated."

CNN couldn't be reached for comment.

The network was responding to a report late Monday on NYTimes.com that said that CBS News/Sports president Sean McManus and CNN International president Jim Walton were talking about ways the two networks could combine forces. This could include CBS paying CNN to use its newsgathering resources.

But sources said no such arrangement was being discussed. From time to time the two networks have discussed various partnerships, but some issue always has prevented a deal from being done.

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.
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