Tuned In

CNNBS? And Is Katie Couric the Next Larry King?

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CBS News

Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine ‘s Daily Intel blogis reporting that CBS News and CNN are in “deep talks” about a possible partnership that would allow them to share talent, cut costs and, they hope, grow their respective audiences. I don’t want to put too much stock in it yet; such a deal has been floated, and unsuccessfully negotiated, for a decade or so. And while the economics of the news business (and these two particular organizations) may make the deal make a lot of sense, it made a lot of sense the last times that it didn’t materialize.

A merger could help CBS, bringing up the rear at 6:30, and CNN, sweeping up after the parade in primetime, financially. It would not necessarily fix CNN’s identity crisis, which I wrote about recently. But it raises some interesting possibilities, anyway:

* If a broadcast network finally allies with CNN, the remaining net without a cable partner—ABC News—is the odd man out. ABC just went through a massive staff cutback, and that would seem to be its trend for the future.

* One issue CBS has to confront soon is whether and how to keep Katie Couric, whose contract is up in a year. A tantalyzing possibility the post floats is Couric as a replacement for Larry King.

* It would further test the theory: do big-network talents draw viewers to cable, and are they worth it? CBS News could (and would) put its stars on CNN, as NBC long has with MSNBC. But arguably, what drove MSNBC’s improvement in the ratings was not talent on loan from the mothership, but homegrown hosts like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.