Chicago -- AOL Time Warner Inc. CEO Gerald Levin declined to comment directly
on speculation that media rival Viacom Inc. was plotting to buy Cable News
Network to help boost its news division at CBS.
'Mel [Karmazin, Viacom CEO] hasn't called me yet,' Levin told CNN talk-show
host Larry King during a panel at the National Show here Wednesday.
While Levin didn't completely rule out a business relationship with a
broadcaster, he indicated that the company was not interested in any deal that
could harm CNN's reputation.
'Part of my trusteeship is to preserve, protect and defend the newsgathering
of CNN and Time,' Levin said.
AOL Time Warner has no interest in buying its own broadcast network, Levin
added. He expressed tremendous optimism for the cable industry, which, he said,
'is at an inflection point' today.
Levin predicted that not only will video-on-demand be successful, but that
someday, all television content will be delivered either in real time or
'This is the answer,' Levin said. 'This is what interactive television is.
It's the ultimate in consumer convenience, choice and control.'
When King asked whether ratings would become immaterial in an on-demand
television environment, Levin replied, 'Instead of the word `ratings,' I would
say `usage.' Usage is still critical.'
Levin also defended Time Warner Cable's recent decisions to refuse to show
ads from digital-subscriber-line-service providers.
'I don't get why anybody would even make an issue out of this,' Levin said.
'In any advertising medium, you can choose your advertisers.' For years, he
pointed out, broadcasters wouldn't take ads for Home Box Office.
'There is no issue here,' he added, 'period.'