Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Who Buys CNN?

The rumor mill continues to churn about who could possibly acquire CNN in case Fox's acquisition of Time Warner goes through. Here are the list of contenders from most likely to least likely.

CBS has made a major turn towards hard news as noted by The Pew Research Center in 2013. There's nothing that would help the news division in it's continuing commitment to hard news more than acquiring the profits and manpower that CNN brings to the table. CBS would also be able to broaden it's cable offerings and could potentially boost up TVGN and Smithsonian Channel's subscriber base by tagging it along with CNN. The news network's website would also boost CBS's internet offerings without a doubt and could even help vault CBSSports.com into a top 5 sports website through traffic driven by CNN.com.

CBS News also has a vast array of archival footage from various significant historical events it has covered in the past so I would imagine that a CBS-owned CNN would continue Jeff Zucker's strategy of an unscripted primetime lineup. Maybe CBS uses it's library to create programs similar to "The Sixties" and turns CNN into a mini-History Channel since the actual History Channel doesn't cover history anymore. It's also worth mentioning that Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, two of CNN's biggest faces, already work for CBS through "60 Minutes".

ABC News has always had a cast of thousands on their news team, but they never have enough time to showcase them all. The news operation has already tried to expand their reach through partnerships with Yahoo! News, Conde Nast, MTVU, YouTube and Univision (just to name a few) but the number of viewers watching their programming through any of those outlets is questionable. An acquisition of CNN would give ABC an extra opportunity to expand their programming abilities. 

What would happen under an ABC-owned CNN? Maybe Fusion is merged into CNN? Maybe ABC expands "Good Morning America" after 9am onto CNN? Will some of the online shows launched by ABC correspondents expand into 30-minute telecasts on CNN?

Bloomberg has proven over and over again that they're dedicated to becoming one of the biggest names in the news business. They recently invested in two star political journalists (Halperin and Heilmann), they've acquired BusinessWeek and they attempted to start a political opinion site. Michael Bloomberg wants to hold some influence in the daily conversations Americans have whether it's about culture or politics. Owning CNN combined with his other media properties could make him more influential than he ever would becoming President of the United States. Ask Roger Ailes about his life if you don't believe it's possible to become influential through television screens.

Bloomberg is also one of the few outlets which is actually expanding their workforce. Not to mention, Bloomberg churns out the most digital video compared with their other business news competitors. If they used the same strategy with CNN, the cable news outlet will be more ready than ever for the next television revolution.

Yahoo! faces a similar situation with Bloomberg in terms of having a desire to expand it's stature in the media industry. By acquiring CNN, Yahoo! would have an outlet to showcase some of it's original programming and it would also have content to fill their new web video enterprise which is aiming to compete against YouTube. Katie Couric would also be back on television at a permanent home.

Is there a better way to get back at an employer who forced you out after you served them for 20+ years than to team up with the second richest man in the world to acquire them? The only thing stopping this bid from happening is the fact that Univision is also for sale and may be better suited for Slim's other media assets in Mexico. There's also a rule which states, according to the New York Post, that "foreign nationals are limited to holding 25 percent of US media companies."

Shane Smith hates everything that CNN stands for. So instead of complaining about it, why doesn't Smith gather some investors together and buy the whole network himself? It would help Vice fulfill it's desires of housing their own television network which has carriage on all the major cable operators.

The Huffington Post already has their own online television network. So why not expand to real television? The HuffPo might also provide the type of built-in audience CNN has had trouble building on it's own. It should be noted that HuffPoLive's Marc Lamont Hill is already a major contributor to the network and HuffPoLive has already produced two cable talk hosts in Alicia Menendez (Fusion) and Jacob Soboroff (Pivot, YouTube Nation).

Al Jazeera America is the television network which journalism professors, media critics and news buffs have been waiting for. The problem is that no one watches it. The network has decent distribution but it's nowhere near the amount of homes which CNN is available in. If AJA were to acquire CNN, then Al Jazeera's belief that Americans want to watch REAL fair and balanced news can be put to the test in the best way possible since it would be available in most homes possible. The question is if the emir of Qatar will be willing to spend another $10 billion on a venture which has already proved unsuccessful.

I would also put a billionaire philanthropist, a foreign media company, an internet company or a cable operator on the list of potential buyers. Maybe Ted Turner buys back CNN and brings it back to prominence as his final act?

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