CBS Corporation was until 2019 the parent company of the CBS TV network and various other assets spun out of media giant Viacom in 2006, undoing a mammoth merger engineered seven years earlier. In addition to CBS and its collection of regional TV stations, it includes streaming service CBS All Access (set to be renamed Paramount+ in 2021), cable channels Showtime and The Movie Channel, a half share in micro-network The CW, and the book publisher Simon & Schuster. In 2018, the group made an unexpected push into Australia with a deal to acquire struggling local channel Network Ten. Several other assets have been sold, including the group's once-extensive outdoor network, carved up and sold off in 2014. The 2006 separation from Viacom couldn't have come at a better time for CBS. Although the network's past performance had traditionally lagged well behind Viacom's cable networks, the new group was far more concentrated, positioned as an old-style US media group with a strong presence in broadcast, radio and outdoor media. Expectations that it would prove the less exciting of the two businesses were overturned when it demonstrated an unexpected return to form, overtaking traditional champion NBC, to become the country's most watched network. Shows including such as 'The Big Bang Theory' and its spin-off 'Young Sheldon', 'NCIS', 'Blue Bloods' and '60 Minutes' have made CBS the most watched network in the US every year since 2008. It was the #1 by total viewers again in 2019/20 averaging 7.6m prime time viewers, down on past highs but still more than 1m ahead of second placed NBC. 'NCIS', now in its 17th season, averaged 15.3m viewers, making it the second most watched regular show after NBC's 'Sunday Night Football'. Other top shows include dramas 'FBI' (12.6m) and another long-running hit, the ten-season 'Blue Bloods' (12.0m). 'Young Sheldon' was America's most watched scripted comedy at 11.5m. 'Bull', '60 Minutes' and 'FBI: Most Wanted' were also all over 10m viewers. A reunion with Viacom was explored in 2016 but abandoned. In 2017, Shari Redstone, controlling shareholder of both CBS and Viacom through family holding company National Amusements, began pushing once again for the two companies to be re-combined. That prompted an aggressive pushback by CBS, led by long-time CEO Les Moonves. He successfully resisted Redstone's demands, but not before accusations of sexual harassment by him of female colleagues surfaced, leading to his dismissal in Sept 2018. Joseph Ianniello, formerly EVP & COO, replaced him as CEO. After that, it was only a matter of time before Shari Redstone got her way. Re-merger talks commenced in summer 2019 and a deal was completed before the end of the year. Viacom's Bob Bakish is CEO of the combined ViacomCBS, but Joseph Ianniello is CEO of its biggest division, housing the CBS network. CBS's revenues for 2018 hit an all-time high of $14.5bn, with net earnings of $2.0bn. The main CBS TV broadcast and production business is the biggest by far within the group, accounting for around two-thirds of group revenues.
Capsule checked 5th December 2019
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Adbrands Daily Update 25th Nov 2020: The global book publishing business is gradually turning into a one-horse race. Bertelsmann sealed a deal - though surely this should be subject to close scrutiny from investors - to add US publisher Simon & Schuster to its portfolio alongside Penguin Random House. The business is being sold by ViacomCBS, and many observers will have assumed that News Corporation's HarperCollins would have secured that prize. Not so, it seems. Bertelsmann will pay almost $2.2bn for the business, currently the global #3 book publisher. The combined business will have more than a third of the US book market. Simon & Schuster has had an especially busy year so far, with a string of political memoirs including Mary Trump's 'Too Much and Never Enough', Sean Hannity's 'Live Free or Die' and John Bolton's 'The Room Where It Happened', among others. Penguin Random House has just published the first volume of former President Barack Obama's memoirs, 'A Promised Land'.
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Aug 2020: Sumner Redstone, the legendarily combative founder of what is now the ViacomCBS media conglomerate has died at the age of 97. He was a late starter as a media tycoon, launching himself into a new career in his mid-50s after surviving a hotel fire. Already head of the family's cinema exhibition chain he propelled himself into the thick of the content business in the 1980s and 90s with hard-fought battles to seize control of cable channel operator Viacom, then Paramount Studios and finally CBS Corporation. However his later years were overshadowed by bitter feuds, first with members of his own family, and later with the glamorous female companions with whom he chose to spend his declining years. This led to a tawdry court battle over money in the mid 2010s.
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd May 2020: Helped by Super Bowl and break-out entertainment hit 'The Masked Singer', Fox delivered its best network performance since 2012 in the US TV season ended May. It reclaimed the position of top network for viewers in the most valuable 18-49 demographic for the first time in eight long years, with an average of almost 2.2m primetime viewers. CBS retained its position as the most-watched channel by total viewers at 7.6m, more than 1m clear of second-placed NBC. Fox was 3rd for total viewers ahead of ABC. The most watched regular programme overall among total viewers was NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' with an average 20m viewers. CBS's long-running 'NCIS' drama franchise - now in its 17th year - was the #2 show at 15.3m viewers.
Adbrands Daily Update 5th Dec 2019: Viacom and CBS completed their long-anticipated re-merger to create a stronger competitor to bulked up media titans like Disney, Comcast, AT&T and Netflix. Aged and bed-ridden tycoon Sumner Redstone is still nominally the controlling shareholder, but all management decisions are now overseen by his sometimes-estranged daughter Shari Redstone, vice chair of the merger company. "My father once said, 'Content is king,' and never has that been more true than today," she said in a statement. "Through CBS and Viacom's shared passion for premium content and innovation, we will establish a world-class, multiplatform media organization that is well positioned for growth in a rapidly transforming industry." As has long been the case in the troubled Redstone family, there are dissenting voices. Sumner Redstone's granddaughter, Keryn Redstone - Shari's niece - issued a statement opposing the merger. "In 2006, when my grandfather separated CBS and Viacom, he did so intending for these companies always to remain separate," she said. "The direction in which both companies have gone in the absence of my grandfather's leadership is contrary to that which he had envisioned for success."
Adbrands Daily Update 14th Aug 2019: CBS and Viacom agreed to re-combine in order to compete more effectively in the greatly changed media market. The merger will re-unite two organisations that have enjoyed or endured an on-off partnership for almost 50 years, ever since the original CBS split off its cable networks in 1971 to create Viacom. Sumner Redstone joined them back together again in 2000, then split them apart once more in 2006. Under the new arrangement, CBS will acquire its smaller sibling for around $11.8bn in stock. The combined group - to be titled ViacomCBS - will be America's second largest broadcaster by primetime viewers, mainly because of the strength of its main CBS TV network, and its valuation of $30bn leapfrogs its closest rival Fox Corp (currently worth around $22bn). Yet it is dwarfed by rivals AT&T, Disney, Comcast or Netflix, each worth between four and eight times as much. As a result, further acquisitions are likely, as ViacomCBS attempts to bulk up its industry profile. As previously announced, Viacom's Bob Bakish becomes group CEO, while Joe Ianniello is chairman & CEO of CBS. Shari Redstone is group chairman.
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