Partnership parleys

CNN discusses newsgathering alliances with CBS, ABC

Exploring scenarios for some kind of newsgathering alliance, CNN has been carrying on separate conversations with CBS and, more recently, ABC.

A few months ago, when word surfaced that CBS and CNN were discussing such an alliance, ABC News President David Westin called CNN executives and urged them to consider partnering with his network before finalizing any CBS deal. In the meantime, Westin's friend and neighbor Walter Isaacson took over the helm at CNN, and the two have spoken about potential partnership opportunities. Isaacson has said he could imagine a relationship similar to CNN's Newsource, which licenses CNN reports to local stations.

"People may want to buy our news, barter for our news by giving us something in return," he told BROADCASTING & CABLE at the TV critics tour in Pasadena last month. "I can envision some arrangements that would work."

At the time, he cautioned that it would be some time before an agreement would be hammered out with either network.

The issue of control could be a deal breaker. Sources at ABC and CBS say they won't cede it to CNN. But a source at CNN says any agreement is a non-starter for the cable network without control of any venture that's formed.

Both ABC and CBS say that nothing is imminent and any talks are in early stages.