Buried in CJR’s big story on the network evening newscasts was a very interesting nugget of news. As we have covered, the networks–particularity CBS and ABC, which do not have the benefit of a lucrative cable news operation–have long been seeking to partner with a a cable news channel. Bloomberg TV and CNN have had conversations with both networks.
The problem, as noted by the author of the CJR piece, Paul Friedman (himself a former senior executive at both CBS and ABC News), is that the networks are union shops, while the cablers are not. This would make the logistics of a merger very difficult. Friedman notes another option that was apparently discussed inside the broadcast networks:
One alternative that has been discussed is to get around the union barriers by licensing CNN to produce an evening newscast for a network, for a fee that would be less than what the network spends to maintain its own staff and facilities.
In other words, if you can’t make a merger work, why not outsource the least-profitable newscast to another company, in this case CNN. Given Friedman’s background, it is almost certain that this possibility was raised at either CBS or ABC in recent years.