The on-again, off-again talks between Cable News Network and ABC News about merging their operations intensified in recent weeks, advancing to the point where the AOL Time
Warner Inc. board was briefed on them last week. Although both sides confirmed that
talks were continuing, they stressed that no deal was imminent.
One source said the board indicated that with everything currently going on at the
company, now is probably not the right time to even consider such an
Both David Westin, president of ABC News, and CNN News Group chairman Walter
Isaacson issued statements in response to reports that the talks had
Westin told ABC News staffers during a conference call that the division is
stronger than it was a year ago and therefore had "the luxury of doing nothing
at all and continuing to grow our business."
On the other hand, he said, "it also gives us the luxury of doing a deal, if
any is done, from a position of strength. Whatever we do or don't do, we will be
doing with the goal of making ABC New even stronger and better."
One source confirmed that recent talks had centered on a spin-ff news unit
where Disney/ABC News would be the minority partner in terms of ownership, but
where ABC News would retain editorial independence.
Isascson's statement alluded to talks with both CBS and ABC, although sources
acknowledged that the most recent talks were with the latter.
"At this time, CNN is not close to making a deal, but we will always explore
scenarios that can make our journalism and business even stronger," Isaacson