TW: CNN could help broadcast partner

Bewkes pitches network as helping amid cost pressures

NEW YORK -- Time Warner's CNN could be a good strategic partner for financially squeezed broadcast network news operations, TW chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes said Wednesday when asked about latest rumors of a possible tie-up between CNN and CBS News.

On his firm's earnings conference call, he acknowledged past talks about what he called a "structural partnership of some kind" and said: "We have long been in discussions with really all candidates. We don't have anything definitive to tell you right now."

He said the driving force is not so much CNN's ratings weakness in the U.S. "There is a lot of financial strength at CNN," thanks to international ratings and good digital traction, Bewkes said, predicting another profit record for CNN this year.

CNN is instead "offering a solution to the cost problems and the profit squeeze...in network news," he suggested.

That said, he acknowledged that "we're not happy with the current ratings" at CNN. While the network has more overall viewers, many watch for short periods only. CNN must make its broadcasts "more compelling to increase the time spent viewing," he said.
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