Ending weeks of uncertainty, CBS Broadcast Group President Howard Stringer plans to announce today that he will leave the network to run a new video project financed by three regional telephone firms and advised by Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency.
Although it has been known for several weeks that Stringer, 53, was the front-runner for the job, it was unclear whether CBS Chairman Laurence Tisch would let Stringer out of his contract, which had two years to run.
Sources said Stringer's title with the new venture is expected to be chairman and chief executive of both Media Co. and Technology Co., two ventures being set up by the phone companies to develop interactive programming and interactive technology, respectively. The move represents a departure from original plans, which had each unit with its own CEO.
The project is being financed with $100 million each in seed money from Pacific Telesis Group, Bell Atlantic Corp. and Nynex Corp. Creative Artists Agency, led by Chairman Michael S. Ovitz, is advising the group.
Stringer's hiring is an important coup for the venture because it gives it badly needed credibility in the programming arena. The companies also aim to develop the technology needed to deliver those programs over phone lines.
Should the venture develop its programs and technology as planned, it would pose a serious challenge to cable operators. One of the main challenges for the venture will be the development of software to help consumers easily navigate the system and choose programs.
Stringer is known to have expressed a great deal of interest in the new venture, though publicly both he and Tisch downplayed reports that he would leave. Stringer's decision is said to have been influenced by uncertainty over whether CBS might be sold.