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, and thereby effectively undoing a mammoth merger it engineered in 1999. The remaining business is concentrated around the group's fast-growing cable networks, biggest of which is 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. In 2014, Viacom became the first US broadcaster to own a UK terrestrial broadcaster following a deal to acquire Channel 5. 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.
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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.
Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Jan 2018: Media group Viacom bolstered its in-house marketing resources with the acquisition of social media and influencer agency Whosay, which specialises in matching up advertisers with entertainment, sports and online celebrities to promote brands across social media platforms. Viacom has already partnered with Whosay for several cable specials, including awards shows for its MTV, BET and Comedy Central channels. "We needed some engine to allow us to do this on a 52-week basis," ad sales chief Sean Moran told the WSJ.
Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Feb 2017: Viacom's new CEO Robert Bakish announced a new strategic direction for the group's portfolio of cable channels, several of which have struggled to maintain viewers' interest. He said the group would focus its attention from now on six flagship strands: BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr and Spike, which will relaunch in 2018 as The Paramount Network. Other strands won't be dropped or divested but will be "realigned" to reinforce these lead brands. At the same time, the group's Paramount filmed entertainment studio will develop new movie and TV projects that will be co-branded to each of the flagship channels.
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