Networks refute Times article detailing news pact

CBS News and CNN execs have recently been in talks to explore the possibility of sharing resources in a way that would help the bottom lines of both newsgathering outfits.

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.

Insiders acknowledged that top execs from CBS News and CNN have recently had discussions about the feasibility of sharing behind-the-scenes resources in far-flung news hotspots like Baghdad. But several people close to the situation cautioned that those talks were narrow in scope and ended with no concrete agreement.

CBS and CNN have long flirted with the idea of a merger or alliance that would help both better manage the significant costs of newsgathering, particularly in foreign locales. CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves has made no secret of his interest in acquiring CNN from parent Time Warner, were it for sale at the right price, but talks have bogged down in the past over issues of control, rights and how much exposure CBS’ marquee news stars would receive on the all-news cabler.

One exec familiar with the long courtship of CBS and CNN said it was likely that the two sides would eventually resume the discussion about a merger or alliance, but no such pact will be signed in the near term.

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