Paramount Global is the new name for ViacomCBS, the company created at the end of 2019 by the re-merger of two companies which had already shared a long history as on-off partners. The latest merger took place two decades after the businesses first joined forces under the Viacom banner, and 13 years after they were split apart by Viacom's decision to spin off a collection of its broadcast and radio assets into separate company CBS Corporation. Following that move, the slimmed down Viacom was concentrated around the group's cable networks, led by pioneering music broadcaster MTV, supported by Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET and others. That new Viacom also kept control of movie studio Paramount and its home entertainment division, and operates Paramount-branded movie channels in several international cable markets. In 2014, Viacom became the first US broadcaster to own a UK terrestrial broadcaster following a deal to acquire Channel 5, and later purchased Argentina's free-to-air Telefe channel. These are now partnered by Australia's Network 10, acquired by CBS in 2018. In 2016, Viacom became embroiled in an undignified series of court cases as various parties within the inner circle of elderly owner Sumner Redstone battled for control of his media empire. Those battles were eventually won by his daughter Shari Redstone, who became the de facto controlling party behind both Viacom and CBS via holding company National Amusements. Philippe Dauman was ousted as CEO and replaced by Robert Bakish. Another series of battles followed when she attempted to broker a re-merger with CBS to reinvigorate flagging performance at Viacom. Those negotiations were forcefully resisted by CBS CEO Les Moonves, but his removal following allegations of improper behaviour led to a restart of talks in summer 2019. A deal was completed at the end of the year. Viacom's name comes first, and its CEO Bob Bakish retained that role in the combined company, but CBS investors got the largest share of equity, with 61% of shares. The top-rated CBS TV network is the group's most valuable brand asset by far. Pluto TV the group's free streaming TV service, offering selected content from its various channels as well as third-party and original programming. It reaches some 43m monthly users worldwide, including 30m in the US. This is now partnered by paid-for sister service Paramount+ (formerly CBS All-Access). Shari Redstone remains non-executive chair and controlling shareholder, overseeing around 80% of equity. ViacomCBS revenues for 2021 were $28.6bn, with net earnings of $4.5bn. Cable Networks accounted for 50% of revenues, TV Entertainment for 45%, and Filmed Entertainment for the remaining 5%. The company changed its name in Feb 2022 to Paramount Global.
Capsule checked 22nd July 2021
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Adbrands Update 16th Feb 2022: ViacomCBS announced a change of corporate name to the more widely recognised Paramount brand. "Paramount is an idea: A promise to be the best," said Shari Redstone, non-executive chair and controlling shareholder. "That promise has always been at the center of what we aspired to build as the steward of more than a century of cinematic excellence, and with businesses and brands that have defined and redefined entertainment for generation after generation."
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Nov 2021: The US Justice Department has filed a lawsuit to oppose the proposed acquisition of book publisher Simon & Schuster by Bertelsmann's Penguin Random House. That $2.2bn deal - as opposed to what is thought to have been a lower offer from News Corp's HarperCollins - took many observers by surprise because of PRH's already dominant market position. The suit says the proposed merger would give PRH unprecedented control and influence over how much authors are paid. "By reducing author pay, this merger would make it harder for authors to earn a living by writing books, which would, in turn, lead to a reduction in the quantity and variety of books published."
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 15th Sep 2020: ViacomCBS is getting out of the tech media business with a deal to sell its CNET online division to investor Red Ventures for $500m. CNET's other brands include ZDNet and GameSpot. The business was originally acquired by CBS in 2008 for $1.8bn but traffic has reduced significantly since then, and ViacomCBS's focus has shifted away from general online media to streaming services such as CBS All Access. Red Ventures has acquired a series of online businesses over the past decade. It also owns financial services service Bankrate, health and wellness publisher Healthline Media and travel rewards site ThePointsGuy.
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.
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