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CBS eyes film production

Network won't mount a bid for studio

CBS Corp. chief financial officer Fred Reynolds says the Eye is getting into the film business, but that doesn’t mean it’s buying a studio.

Seeking to quell persistent Wall Street rumors that CBS would use some of its cash in a mega-deal for Lionsgate or another studio, Reynolds reassured an aud of financial pros at the Credit Suisse First Boston media confab that no such deal is in the works and that the company would continue to return cash to shareholders.

Reynolds said the company is looking to spend about $300 million on an Internet acquisition, on par with the bill the company paid to acquire CSTV.

Reynolds said the plan to start financing film production, first mentioned by topper Leslie Moonves in June, would involve shifting cash that would otherwise have been spent on renting the broadcast rights to films.

He said the company would look to put up $8 million to $9 million per pic, besides bringing in additional Wall Street or private equity financing for a slate of films.

“It’s the same money that we would spend on an output deal; we could put that into production and then we would own it,” Reynolds said. “If we can do it where we don’t risk our balance sheet, then we will do it.”

In June, Moonves said the company would invest in six to eight films a year with production budgets in the $20 million-$50 million range.