According to The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday, Redstone, who serves as vice chairwoman of CBS and Viacom, has been quietly exploring a plan to launch a conservative news network on Viacom. The report said Redstone has been holding talks with former and current Fox News personalities, including Megyn Kelly, as well as with President Trump.
“Viacom has no intention of launching a TV news channel, conservative or otherwise,” a Viacom rep said.
Redstone’s spokeswoman also denied that a news network was in the works, but confirmed that the mogul recently met with Trump in what has been characterized as an hour-long meeting with no agenda.
Currently, Viacom and CBS are seeking regulatory approval for a merger, which would recombine the two firms, which were split in 2006. Viacom and CBS will become ViacomCBS after the pending merger which, as a $30 billion conglomerate, will also run Showtime, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, and BET.
According to THR, Redstone could rebrand one of the existing Viacom channels and presumably would insulate CBS News from the new offering. "Everybody wants Fox News money, but nobody wants to destroy their [existing] news brand," a source says. As a journalism institution, CBS News boasts two of the most venerable titles in TV with 60 Minutes (regularly the most-watched news broadcast in all of TV, 12 million tuning in live to the most recent episode) and CBS Sunday Morning.
Redstone sees an opening as the audience for TV news grows older and more conservative and Trump and some of his fans express disenchantment with ratings giant Fox News, which lost its top news anchor Friday when Shepard Smith announced his departure amid conflict with some of the network’s opinion hosts. One insider says Redstone thinks Fox News, whose top shows are hosted by Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, has "gone crazy" in the Trump era as it also grapples with the sexual harassment-tainted legacy of network founder Roger Ailes.