The mogul, who has spoken with former Fox News star Megyn Kelly, may look to rebrand an existing Viacom linear channel to create a conservative-leaning news network.
In the midst of closing a merger between CBS and Viacom, Shari Redstone is quietly exploring a plan to launch a conservative TV outlet meant to square off with the Fox News Channel, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
This Redstone plan for a new TV service also would have a streaming component. THR has learned that Pluto, which Viacom acquired in March for $340 million, is about to launch an as-yet-unannounced streaming conservative news and opinion channel. A source says the idea for that network was in the works before the Pluto acquisition.
Redstone has approached current and former Fox News personalities about such a plan, sources say, and she has spoken with former NBC News host Megyn Kelly. A rep for Kelly declined to comment.
As the merger of Viacom and CBS awaits regulatory approval, a Redstone spokesperson confirms that she quietly visited President Trump in the White House recently but denies any plan to launch a conservative TV network (as does a spokesperson for Viacom). Redstone plays her personal politics close to the vest but shortly after Trump’s election she told THR, “He’s always been very good to me and a tremendous supporter of me personally.”
A former CBS-Viacom exec says Redstone has sat in on “multiple meetings” about the potential venture, though this person doesn’t think Redstone’s idea arises from ideology. Viacom has faced headwinds in the transforming media environment as Redstone worked to wrest control from former chairman Philippe Dauman and then to push through a merger with CBS. Fox News mints money for owner Fox Corp. and the Murdoch family, estimated at north of $1 billion in profit annually.
According to insiders, 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.
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