CBS and National Amusements are making progress in talks to settle the bitter lawsuit over control of the company that is one half of Sumner Redstone’s media empire.
Discussions have been ongoing for weeks in an effort to head off the start of the trial in Delaware Chancery Court set for Oct. 3. Sources familiar with the situation said the talks between some CBS board members and representatives for NAI picked up steam during Labor Day weekend.
A spokesman for CBS Corp. declined to comment. An NAI rep also declined to comment.
The lawsuit filed May 14 by CBS grew out of the conflict between CBS Corp. chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves and NAI president Shari Redstone over the fate of CBS and the proposed merger with Viacom, which NAI also controls.
A source close to the situation said the CBS board of directors is also deep in discussions about Moonves’ future at the helm of CBS. The source said the lawsuit settlement talks and the discussions of Moonves’ future are happening on parallel tracks. It has been widely expected that after pursuing the bold legal strategy to challenge NAI’s voting control over CBS, Moonves would be forced out unless CBS managed to prevail in court.
Complicating the deliberations on Moonves’ fate is the fact that CBS is investigating allegations of sexual harassment leveled against its CEO in late July by six women in a New Yorker investigative report by Ronan Farrow. The 11 independent members of CBS’ board of directors have staunchly backed Moonves. But the lawsuit settlement talks will undoubtedly take into consideration future management of CBS. Conflicting visions of CBS Corp.’s future were the spark for the discord between Moonves and Shari Redstone.
Deadline was first to report the accelerated settlement talks.
CBS has already been seen as a potential acquisition target, a bauble that could be worth plenty to a technology company with content ambitions like Amazon or Verizon, or an asset to be combined with other small to medium sized media firms in order to stitch something together that could compete with a Comcast and NBCUniversal, a Disney and 21st Century Fox. Even if the two companies decide not to merge, Wall Street analysts believe other companies may want to consider CBS.
The company also has several of its own initiatives to pursue. CBS has launched several streaming outlets in the last few years, including CBSN, a streaming-video hub operated by CBS News; CBS Sports HQ, a sports-news outlet; and CBS All Access, a subscription-based streaming video site that offers a spin-off of the popular CBS drama, “The Good Wife” a glossy reboot of “Star Trek” and, soon, a revival of “The Twilight Zone.” It is also about to launch a new TV season without a lineup of “Thursday Night Football,” which is moving to 21st Century Fox’s Fox Broadcasting after a new deal with the National Football League.