|Founded||December 4, 2019|
|Headquarters||One Astor Plaza,|
|Owner||National Amusements (80% voting power)|
ViacomCBS Inc. is an American multinational media conglomerate based in New York City. The corporation was formed via the re-merger of CBS Corporation and the second incarnation of Viacom on December 4, 2019, the two of which were created from the split of the original Viacom in 2005. It is involved in film, television, publishing, and digital media.
The company's main assets include the Paramount Pictures film and television studio, CBS Entertainment Group (consisting of CBS-branded properties including the namesake CBS network, CBS Television Studios, CBS Television Distribution, CBS Television Stations, CBS Interactive, and a 50% interest in The CW), domestic networks (consisting of U.S.-based basic and premium-tier cable television networks including MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, and Showtime), international networks (consisting of international versions of domestic Viacom networks as well as region-specific networks including Channel 5 in the UK, Network 10 in Australia, Colors in India and Telefe in Argentina).
Headquartered at One Astor Plaza in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, the company operates approximately over 170 networks and reaches approximately 700 million subscribers in approximately 160 countries, as of 2020.
In 1952, CBS formed CBS Films, a division which handled syndication rights for CBS’ library of television series. This division was renamed CBS Enterprises Inc. in January 1968, and again renamed Viacom in 1970. In 1971, this syndication division was spun off amid new FCC rules forbidding television networks from owning syndication companies (the rules were later repealed). In 1986, Viacom was acquired by its present owner, theater operator company National Amusements. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Viacom made several acquisitions, including MTV Networks (former Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment) and Paramount Communications. In 1999, Viacom made its biggest acquisition to date by announcing plans to merge with its former parent CBS Corporation (the renamed Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which had merged with CBS in 1995). The merger was completed in 2000, resulting in CBS reuniting with its former syndication division. On January 3, 2006, Viacom was split into two companies: CBS Corporation, the former's corporate successor and the spun-off Viacom company.
On September 29, 2016, National Amusements, the parent company of CBS Corporation and Viacom, sent a letter to Viacom and CBS encouraging the two companies to merge back into one company. On December 12, the deal was called off.
On January 12, 2018, CNBC reported that Viacom had re-entered talks to merge back into CBS Corporation, after the merger of AT&T-Time Warner and Disney's proposed acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox's assets were announced. Viacom and CBS also faced heavy competition from companies such as Netflix and Amazon. Shortly afterward, it was reported that the combined company could be a suitor for acquiring the film studio Lionsgate. Viacom and Lionsgate were both interested in acquiring The Weinstein Company. Following the Weinstein effect, Viacom was listed as one of 22 potential buyers that were interested in acquiring TWC. They lost the bid, and on March 1, 2018, it was announced that Maria Contreras-Sweet would acquire all of TWC's assets for $500 million. Lantern Capital would later acquire the Studio.
On March 30, 2018, CBS made an all-stock offer slightly below Viacom's market value, insisting that its existing leadership, including long-time chairman and CEO Les Moonves, oversee the re-combined company. Viacom rejected the offer as too low, requesting a $2.8 billion increase and that Bob Bakish be maintained as president and COO under Moonves. These conflicts had resulted from Shari Redstone seeking more control over CBS and its leadership.
Eventually, on May 14, 2018, CBS Corporation sued National Amusements and accused Redstone of abusing her voting power in the company and forcing a merger that was not supported by it or Viacom. CBS also accused Redstone of discouraging Verizon Communications from acquiring it, which could have been beneficial to its shareholders.
On May 23, 2018, Les Moonves stated that he considered the Viacom channels to be an "albatross," and while he favored more content for CBS All Access, he believed that there were better deals for CBS than the Viacom deal, such as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Lionsgate or Sony Pictures. Moonves also considered Bakish a threat because he did not want an ally of Shari Redstone as a board member of the combined company.
On September 9, 2018, Les Moonves exited CBS following multiple accusations of sexual assault. National Amusements agreed to make no proposal of a CBS-Viacom merger for at least two years after the date of the settlement.
On May 30, 2019, CNBC reported that CBS Corporation and Viacom would explore merger discussions in mid-June 2019. CBS's board of directors was revamped with people who were open to merging; the re-merger was made possible with the resignation of Moonves, who had opposed all merger attempts. The talks had started following rumors of CBS acquiring Starz from Lionsgate. Reports said that CBS and Viacom reportedly set August 8 as an informal deadline for reaching an agreement to recombine the two media companies. CBS announced to acquire Viacom as part of the re-merger deal for up to $15.4 billion.
On August 2, 2019, it was reported that CBS and Viacom agreed to merge back into one entity. Both companies came to an agreement on the management team for the merger, with Bob Bakish serving as CEO of the combined company with president and acting CEO of CBS, Joseph Ianniello, overseeing CBS-branded assets. On August 7, 2019, CBS and Viacom separately reported their quarterly earnings as the talks about the re-merger continued.
Upon the merger agreement, Viacom and CBS jointly announced that the transaction is expected to close by the end of 2019, pending regulatory and shareholder approvals. The merger must be approved by the Federal Trade Commission.
On October 28, the merger was approved by National Amusements, which then announced the deal would close in early December; the recombined company will trade its shares on Nasdaq under the symbols "VIAC" and "VIACA" after CBS Corporation delist its shares on the New York Stock Exchange.
On November 25, Viacom and CBS announced the merger would close on December 4 and begin trading NASDAQ on December 5. On December 4, 2019, Bakish confirmed that the ViacomCBS merger had closed.
On December 10, Bakish announced that ViacomCBS would look to divest Black Rock, the building that held CBS's headquarters since 1964. He stated, "Black Rock is not an asset we need to own and we believe that money would be put to better use elsewhere..." That same day, the company and its Paramount Pictures subsidiary resumed talks with Miramax (and its owner beIN Media Group) to acquire a stake in the company. On December 20, 2019, the company agreed to purchase a 49% stake in Miramax (beIN maintained a 51% majority stake), with Paramount announcing an exclusive agreement for their library and upcoming films.
On February 6, 2020, CNBC reported that ViacomCBS was preparing to launch a streaming service that would blend CBS All Access, Paramount films and its media properties such as Nickelodeon, MTV and Pluto TV, among others, which have been licensed to other services like Netflix and Amazon's Prime Video.
In March 2020, EVP Dana McClintock announced his resignation from the company after 27 years in CBS Communications. CEO Bob Bakish announced on March 4 that the company would potentially sell the Simon & Schuster publishing unit, stating that "it does not have significant connection for our broader business.”
CBS Entertainment Group consists of CBS-branded assets, including the CBS television network, CBS News, CBS Sports, CBS Television Studios, CBS Television Stations, and CBS Interactive. The unit also has a 50% interest in The CW television network joint venture co-owned by AT&T subsidiary WarnerMedia through its Warner Bros. division.
Domestic Media Networks encompasses the pay television channels provided in the United States, such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Showtime, BET, Comedy Central, TV Land, Paramount Network, Logo, CMT, Pop TV, VH1, The Movie Channel, and Flix. The unit also includes the Smithsonian Channel, which is controlled via a joint venture with the Smithsonian Institution. ViacomCBS Domestic additionally controls production facilities for the channels listed above, including Nickelodeon Animation Studio.
Networks International encompasses certain international versions of the company's domestic channels, as well as region-specific networks, such as Channel 5 in the United Kingdom, Network 10 in Australia, and Telefe in Argentina. ViacomCBS International also owns a third of the Rainbow S.r.l. television studio in Italy, as well as a 49% stake in the Viacom 18 joint venture with TV18. This unit also includes all CBS-branded channels across Europe, which are co-owned with AMC Networks International.
Global Distribution Group focuses on the global distribution of all programs produced by all ViacomCBS production studios. The division consists of CBS Television Distribution, CBS Studios International and Viacom International Studios.
Other assets owned by ViacomCBS are film studio Paramount Pictures, over-the-top ad-supported video-on-demand platform Pluto TV, book publisher Simon & Schuster, multi-genre online video conference VidCon, mixed martial arts promotor Bellator, and media and entertainment company AwesomenessTV. As of November 2019, AwesomenessTV is overseen by Brian Robbins, an executive for ViacomCBS Domestic.
CBS' plan to acquire Viacom for up to $15.4 billion could be announced Aug. 8, giving its controlling shareholder the ability to leverage IP like 'Star Trek' across film and TV to better compete with Disney, Netflix and the rest.
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