Media giant Viacom slimmed down considerably at the beginning of 2006, spinning off a collection of its broadcast and radio assets into a separate company, now CBS Corporation, thereby effectively undoing a mammoth merger it had engineered seven years earlier. The remaining business is concentrated around the group's cable networks, led by pioneering music broadcaster MTV, supported by Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and others. Pluto TV is its US-based free streaming TV service, offering selected content from its various channels as well as third-party and original programming. The new Viacom also kept control of movie studio Paramount and its busy home entertainment division, and operates a Paramount-branded movie channel 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. Two years later 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, now 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. However another series of battles followed when she attempted to broker a re-merger with CBS to reinvigorate flagging performance at Viacom. In this case, she has so far been less successful. A truce was eventually agreed in 2018 whereby the two companies would continue to operate separately, for the time being at least. Re-merger talks were on the table again by summer 2019. Revenues for the ye Sept 2019 were $12.8bn, with net earnings of $1.5bn. Viacom Velocity is the group's internal marketing division.
Capsule checked 5th October 2018
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Historical profile information for Viacom
Adbrands Daily Update 14th Nov 2019: Viacom posted flat performance in what is expected to be its final set of financial results before re-merger with CBS, expected imminently. Revenues slipped slightly to $12.8bn, and net earnings were down 10% to $1.5bn. The group's media networks business continues to face challenges, with revenues slipping slightly to $9.9bn, and operating income down 6%. However the Paramount filmed entertainment division reported its first (modest) profit for three years, despite a series of lacklustre releases. Revenues edged up 1% to almost $3.1bn. The strongest income stream came from licensing revenues.
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.
Adbrands Daily Update 7th Aug 2019: As talks of a re-merger with CBS continue, Viacom has continued to flesh out its own portfolio with acquisitions. It announced the purchase of Paws Inc, the company which controls cartoon character Garfield, for an undisclosed sum. Nickelodeon will develop a new TV series based on the comic strip cat created by Jim Davis and will control global rights to consumer products and "location-based experiences" based around Garfield and his owner. They join a valuable collection of other characters assets in the Nickelodeon portfolio including SpongeBob Square Pants, Dora The Explorer and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Nickelodeon is already one of the top 10 global licensors with licensed product sales of around $5.5bn annually.
Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Aug 2019: CBS and Viacom took another step closer towards re-merger with news that the two groups had resolved long-simmering debate over who would lead a combined business, if they were indeed to re-combine. Leadership was the main stumbling block in previous discussions, but that was before the dramatic ousting of CBS CEO Les Moonves. Now, according to news reports, the two sides have agreed that Viacom's CEO Bob Bakish would retain that role in the enlarged business, while acting CBS Joe Ianniello would lead all CBS-branded assets, becoming de facto #2 within the merged group. CBS's CFO Christina Spade, too, would retain her role in a new CBS-Viacom. Now they just need to agree a price...
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Jan 2019: Viacom joined the ranks of mediaowners with their own streaming services through acquisition of existing OTT broadcaster Pluto TV for $340m. Unlike most of the other new streaming services, Pluto is an entirely free service offering around 100 ad-supported channels. "As the video marketplace continues to segment, we see an opportunity to support the ecosystem in creating products at a broad range of price points, including free," said Viacom CEO Bob Bakish. "To that end, we see significant white space in the ad-supported streaming market."
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