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 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.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Dec 2016: Sumner Redstone will step down as a director of Viacom in Feb next year, though he will retain the title chairman emeritus. The ailing billionaire, whose physical and mental health has remained firmly in the spotlight this year, resigned his role as executive chairman of both Viacom and CBS earlier in 2016 following a series of court battles. He will now also surrender his vote as well, though according to a filing this week he "will continue to participate in meetings of the Board in a non-voting role". Further down the executive ranks, there was yet another upheaval at Viacom's struggling music & entertainment cable business - responsible for MTV and Comedy Central among others - with the resignation of divisional president Doug Herzog.
Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Dec 2016: In an unexpected turnaround, the Redstone family advised the boards of CBS and Viacom to suspend discussions regarding a merger. Their National Amusements investment umbrella, which controls around 80% of voting shares in both groups, issued a statement to the effect that, having considered the benefits of such a deal, it had reached the conclusion that "this is not the right time to merge the companies". The Redstones have asked the two companies to "focus instead on their independent paths forward". Apparently there had been little enthusiasm within either Viacom or CBS for a recombination of the two businesses, and Shari Redstone is said to have been impressed by Robert Bakish's first weeks as CEO of Viacom.
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