Sunday, 25 August, 2019

Shari Redstone gets her prize: a new media giant

CBS Viacom agree to merge in all-stock deal The Viacom office is seen in Hollywood Los AngelesMore
Julia Gonzales | 14 August, 2019, 04:42

The merger creates a company with roughly $30-billion market value, which is still small compared to rivals including Netflix Inc (NFLX.O), at $136 billion, ABC network owner Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), at about $245 billion, and NBC owner Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) at $193 billion. CBS shareholders will own around 61% of the combined company, while Viacom shareholders will take 39%.

Viacom owns Paramount Pictures and pay TV channels such as Comedy Central, MTV and BET, while CBS has a broadcast network, television stations, Showtime and a stake in The CW over-the-air network.

Viacom's Chief Executive Robert Bakish will lead the new company, which will be called ViacomCBS.

Both CBS Corp. and Viacom have always been controlled by Sumner Redstone, 96, and more recently his daughter, Shari, 65, through their family's privately owned company, National Amusements, which operates movie theaters in the USA, United Kingdom and Latin America. "Our unique ability to produce premium and popular content for global audiences at scale - for our own platforms and for our partners around the world - will enable us to maximize our business for today, while positioning us to lead for years to come". Moonves apparently wanted his protégé at CBS, Joe Ianniello, to succeed him, while Bob Bakish, the head of Viacom, was seen as Redstone's choice. ViacomCBS has a number of top platforms under its purview, including CBS's successful catch-up service and SVOD CBS All Access, as well as newly acquired AVOD platform Pluto TV, along with niche products such as CBSN, ET Live and Noggin. It is unlikely that CBS-Viacom could itself become an acquisition target, given how potential acquirers nearly all have their hands full with their own big purchases. Together, they will own more than 140,000 TV episodes and 3,600 film titles.

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Each Viacom Class A voting share and Viacom Class B non-voting share will convert into 0.59625 of a Class A voting share and Class B non-voting share of CBS, respectively, the companies said. The deal would close by December 31, pending any regulator approvals. As more consumers cut the cable cord, media companies are racing to come up with new ways to get their programs to viewers.

CBS shares gained 0.8% to $48.41 as of 9:40 a.m.in NY on Tuesday, while Viacom rose 0.3% to $28.62.

"The combined company will have the best of both worlds, premium US programming that seamlessly travels across borders and hundreds of thousands of hours of locally produced worldwide programming, all available with the click of a button", he said.

The third attempt at a merger since 2016 is a decisive win for Shari Redstone, whose father built the companies through a series of mergers and then broke them apart 13 years ago. CBS under longtime chief Les Moonves became more profitable and Viacom struggled, hurt by weakness in its Paramount studio and people dropping cable in favor of streaming. Through CBS and Viacom's shared passion for premium content and innovation, we will establish a world-class, multiplatform media organization that is well-positioned for growth in a rapidly transforming industry. The latter was forced out in September 2018 amid accusations of sexual harassment.

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