CBS News/CNN Merger Talks Surface - Again

The intermittent rumors about a partnership between CBS News and CNN have surfaced once again. This time, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman is quoting a source who says negotiations have been “going on for a couple of months” and characterizes the talks as “deep.”

All of which is familiar to industry watchers. But as Sherman correctly points there are even more reasons to consummate the long rumored partnership.

“While such conversations have occurred over the last decade, the current news-business climate - plummeting CNN ratings, ever-shrinking evening-news audiences, major layoffs at ABC - make a deal more logical than ever before,” writes Sherman.

Indeed, but if any broadcast news division should be in advanced talks with a cable network, you’d think it would be ABC News, which last week completed a deep downsizing that eliminated approximately 400 people or 25% of the news division. ABC News did their own dance with CNN several years ago. And the rumors about ABC News striking a newsgathering/content partnership with Bloomberg TV have been rampant in the wake of the layoffs. CBS News went through their own much more modest cuts earlier this year, shedding close to 90 jobs.

But the fact remains, broadcast television in general is a mature business and news divisions are no longer written off as loss leaders. For both ABC and CBS - which unlike NBC News lack cable networks over which to amortize content and costs - the day will come when a merger becomes not just good business but a matter of survival. If the painful layoffs at ABC News are any indication, that day is near.