Time Warner CEO Teases Idea of CBS, Viacom Tie-Ups

'I Know Something About It, but I Don't Want to Talk About It'

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Jeff Bewkes.
Jeff Bewkes. Credit: Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg News

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes addressed the idea of eventual consolidation involving rival media companies CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc., while steering clear of any specifics.

When asked about the future of Viacom and CBS and whether they could combine with Time Warner, Bewkes said "they may want to be a merger partner for somebody or maybe even for themselves."

"Whether they want to be for us, I don't know if they do or not," he said Thursday at a conference in New York sponsored by New York Times DealBook. "I know something about it, but I don't want to talk about it."

The idea of combining CBS, owner of the most-watched broadcast network, with Viacom, which runs cable networks Comedy Central and MTV, has often been debated since the two companies split from each other eight years ago.

More recently, Time Warner has been speculated as a merger candidate, particularly with CBS, since it slimmed down to focus on cable channels and the film studio. Analysts have discussed potential merger partners even more frequently since Time Warner, the owner of CNN, HBO and TBS, rejected an $85-a-share bid from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox Inc. earlier this year.

"We have the biggest scale in the businesses that we wanted to be in," Mr. Bewkes said. "That's why we spent the last five years getting to this point."

No deal involving Viacom or CBS can happen without the blessing of 91-year-old Sumner Redstone, who controls both companies and serves as chairman of each.

TV consolidating for leverage
Media companies are under pressure to consolidate to gain negotiating clout in fee talks with TV distributors, which are also undergoing larger mergers of their own right now, and possibly offer broader packages to advertisers.

Comcast Corp. is awaiting approval for its $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc., and AT&T Inc. is in the process of acquiring DirecTV for $48.5 billion.

Representatives for CBS and Viacom declined to comment on Mr. Bewkes's remarks.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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