Glenn Beck sought out CNN deal, but talks died fast

August 23, 2014: 8:30 PM ET
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Glenn Beck's quest to get onto cable television lineups briefly led him to seek out help from CNN earlier this summer.

But the idea fizzled fast and talks aren't expected to resume, according to several people with direct knowledge of the exchange. "The talks were never serious," one of the people said.

Still, Beck's interest -- first reported Friday night by the Wall Street Journal -- is a sign that he is seeking partnerships to help his two-year-old cable channel, called The Blaze.

The Blaze has had a hard time gaining distribution on cable and satellite systems. It is not alone: Many fledgling channels are in similar positions, particularly channels that are not backed by major media companies.

Time Warner (TWX), owner of CNNMoney and CNN, is one of those major media companies. It also owns HBO, TNT, TBS, and other channels, so it has significant leverage in negotiations with distributors like Comcast (CMCSA) and DirecTV (DTV).

That's one of the reasons why Beck's representatives from his media company, Mercury Radio Arts, reached out.

One of the sources compared the proposal to the joint venture between Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications for the channel that became OWN. Discovery provided the shelf space on cable systems and Winfrey provided the bulk of the programming for that channel.

Related: Future of media

Another source said Beck's company proposed that it buy a block of time on HLN, a smaller television sibling of CNN. That would have been a homecoming of sorts for Beck, who hosted a nightly show on HLN from 2006 to 2008. But CNN signaled that it was not interested.

The contact from Mercury Radio Arts came after media reports about talks between Time Warner and Vice Media. Those talks, first reported in late June, have also involved HLN. They are believed to be ongoing, though neither of the companies have commented publicly.

Spokespeople for Beck and CNN declined to comment.

When I interviewed Beck for CNN's "Reliable Sources" last month at his headquarters in Irving, Texas, he acknowledged the challenges that independent channel owners face. At the time, I didn't know about his company's outreach to CNN, and he didn't mention any possible partnerships with major media companies.

Related: Glenn Beck's challenge: Getting into your TV

But he spoke at length about his interest in making sure Mercury Radio Arts reaches audiences through television, radio, the Internet, in-person events, and other means.

"I am interested in delivering an experience for people," he said. "And I want to be in every -- in every possible venue."

Beck's channel is arguably the biggest opportunity he has. It originated on the Internet and was picked up by the country's second-biggest satellite television provider, Dish Network (DISH), in 2012. At the time, that was a big coup for Beck.

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Since then, The Blaze has struck distribution deals with about 70 smaller TV providers. But the industry is top-heavy, and only two of the ten biggest providers, Dish and Cablevision (CVC), have supported The Blaze so far.

Beck's representatives have declined to say how many of the country's 100 million homes with pay-TV currently have access to The Blaze, which helps to explain his apparent interest in partnerships.