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. 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 elderly owner Sumner Redstone's inner circle 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 will continue to operate separately, for the time being at least. Revenues for the ye 2018 were $13.3bn. Viacom Velocity is the group's internal marketing division.
Capsule checked 5th October 2018
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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."
Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Jun 2018: Cannes Lions 2018. The first batch of winners were announced from Cannes Lions 2018. (See the full run-down, including all the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners at the Cannes Lions 2018 website). There were two Grand Prix winners in Outdoor. Canadian agency Cossette was awarded multiple prizes for its brilliantly simple billboards for McDonald's, which used the curves of the instantly recognisable logo to provide directions for the nearest outlet. Comedy Central's Daily Show with Trevor Noah, from Viacom, was the other winner with a savagely satirical commentary on the current US President's Twitter addiction. Under the title of The Donald J Trump Presidential Twitter Library, the channel mounted a three-day event in which all Trump's Tweets were framed for inspection.
Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Apr 2018: Viacom responded to CBS's low-ball merger bid with a counter-proposal. Raise the offer from $11.9bn to around $14.7bn, and name Viacom CEO Bob Bakish as president & COO beneath CEO Leslie Moonves, not CBS's Joseph Ianiello. Negotiations continue.
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Apr 2018: CBS made a lowball offer to acquire sister group Viacom. The bid was undisclosed but is understood to be below Viacom's current value. It was also conditional upon CBS CEO Les Moonves and COO Joe Ianniello being named to lead the re-merged entity. Viacom declined the offer. Both groups are 80% controlled by National Amusements, the cinema group which is now effectively controlled by Shari Redstone, the daughter of ailing mogul Sumner Redstone. She has been encouraging the two groups to recombine. However, the nature of CBS's offer appears to have taken her by surprise; she has been pushing for Viacom CEO Bob Bakish to take the #2 position over Ianniello in a merged company. CBS and Viacom were split in 2006 in the belief that separation would allow cable-oriented Viacom to flourish without the drag effect from broadcast network CBS. Instead the opposite has been true: CBS has soared while Viacom has floundered.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Jan 2018: Shari Redstone, the de facto controlling shareholder in both Viacom and CBS Corporation, is once again pushing for the two media groups to merge to counter increasing consolidation within the industry and the threat from streaming services. The companies have been connected, off and on, for decades. Viacom was originally formed in 1971, when regulators ruled that the then-mighty CBS broadcast empire could not also own cable channels. The business was acquired by movie theatre owner Sumner Redstone in 1988, and a decade later he reunited Viacom with a reduced CBS. However, as the group's stock value began to slip in the mid-2000s he saw an advantage in dividing them once again in the belief that they would do better as separate entities. To many people's surprise, CBS performed significantly better than Viacom. Already vice chairman to her ailing nonagenarian father, Shari Redstone has inherited the controlling position in both companies, but her biggest hurdle is to persuade CBS CEO Leslie Moonves to take back the much-weakened cable division and its equally challenged Paramount movie business.
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