Monday, May 02, 2005

Viacom to sell CBS?

Keep an eye on Viacom over the next couple months. They have announced that they could spin off CBS and are calling 2005 a "transition year". On April 25 they announced a new "multiplatform" strategy, which doesn't include broadcast television.

Does this shift support Sam Donaldson's assessment that network news is dead? Viacom is looking to embrace emerging technologies like satellite radio and video-on-demand. They are enhancing online and download opportunities for MTV content.

So who gets CBS? Well, at first glance Time Warner is the only major media conglomerate that doesn't have a major network, so they may check it out. Current FCC regulations forbid a company to control any two of ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX networks (GE, Disney, and News Corp. control the other three), so the other conglomerates with a large stake in TV are not currently eligible. However, Time Warner already controls the suite of CNN channels, which is free from the limitations of broadcast TV. Bertelsmann would be the sixth conglomerate to speak of, but has not indicated an interest in television as of late, and has no TV holdings in any of their six divisions, focusing on publishing and music.

Furthermore, Viacom is feeling heat from the emergence of satelite radio, as they are one of just two media conglomerates that control a broadcast radio company, in Infinity Broadcasting, which owns over 180 radio stations in 40 markets (the other being Disney, which uses Disney Radio to manufacture teen idols with incredible precision, to the benefit of their other holdings, which control the recordings, film projects and distribution of their project teens' efforts) so it would stand to reason that Infinity's operations will be getting some extra attention from Viacom as well.

Should Time Warner stay their course and take a pass on control of a broadcast TV network, we may see a new player bulk up its position in world of media heavyweights, or witness Donaldson's grim forecast of the fate of broadcast news. Visit the links below for more details:

Viacom: http://www.techcentralstation.com/042105F.html
http://www.viacom.com

Infinity Broadcasting Corporation: http://www.infinityradio.com/

Time Warner: http://timewarner.com

Donaldson "Network News Dead": http://www.broadcastingcable.com/CA526034.html

FCC Regulations: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=56&aid=36005

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