"I want to have the best shows possible"

Synergy’s great, but rely too much on corporate cousins and you may be doomed, according to MTV Networks chief Tom Freston.

As Viacom grows, so does MTV’s stable of siblings: Paramount, CBS, UPN and so on. That’s also meant a gradual sharing of resources.

UPN, for example, aired MTV’s “Celebrity Deathmatch” last spring. WWF wrestling programming airs on UPN, MTV and TNN, where repeats of CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” will wind up.

“If you can figure out something where you can keep the money circulating in your own inhouse system, that’s great,” Freston says. “But you’re not really going to grow your business if you focus on that first. I want to have the best shows possible.”

In this age of consolidation, Freston points out that competitors on one front are partners on another. Time Warner continues to discuss launching a music channel to rival MTV — yet also owns a big chunk of MTV’s distribution through its multiple system operators, while Warner Bros.’ recording artists provide content for the channel.

“I might have the best business relationship with someone who directly competes with Paramount,” he notes. “No company has it all. The worlds are too complicated now. It’s too interwoven.”

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