Nearly 14 years after splitting into two separate companies, CBS Corp. and Viacom have officially tied the knot once again.
The all-stock merger between the companies—announced in August after three years of on-again, off-again talks—has been completed, creating a new combined company, ViacomCBS Inc., with more than $28 billion in revenue and 4.3 billion cumulative TV subscribers around the globe.
The new ViacomCBS portfolio includes a broadcast network (CBS), a movie studio (Paramount), a premium cable network (Showtime), several basic cable networks (among them, MTV, Nickelodeon, Pop TV, Paramount Network, VH1, TV Land, BET and CMT), a number of streaming services (including CBS All Access, Pluto TV, CBSN and BET+) and a book publisher (Simon & Schuster).
The CBS-Viacom union gives both companies scale at a time when most of their rivals have completed big mergers in recent years, including Disney-Fox, Discovery-Scripps and AT&T-TimeWarner (now WarnerMedia).
“This is a historic moment that brings together two iconic companies to form one of the world’s most important content producers and providers,” said Bob Bakish, formerly Viacom president and CEO, who will lead ViacomCBS as president and CEO. “Through the combination of CBS’s and Viacom’s complementary assets, capabilities and talented teams, ViacomCBS will create and deliver premium content for its own platforms and for others, while providing innovative solutions for advertisers and distributors globally. I am excited about the opportunity we have to serve our audiences, creative and commercial partners, and employees, while generating significant long-term value for our shareholders.”
Working under Bakish, acting CBS CEO Joe Ianniello is now chairman and CEO of CBS and will continue to oversee the CBS-branded assets in the combined company. CBS chief financial officer Christina Spade is continuing in that role for ViacomCBS; Viacom CFO Wade Davis is exiting with the merger’s close. Shari Redstone is chairman of the new company.
CBS’ Jo Ann Ross was tapped in October to lead ad sales for the new company as president and chief advertising revenue officer of domestic advertising sales at ViacomCBS. She received the job over Viacom’s ad sales chief Sean Moran, who is leaving the company following the merger.
John Halley, COO of ad solutions and executive vice president of Advanced Marketing Solutions at Viacom, will serve as COO of ad revenue and keep his evp post, reporting to Ross. He’ll head up commercial and business operations for the unified advertising team, as well as ViacomCBS’ portfolio of advanced advertising and marketing solutions.
When announcing the merger last summer, the companies said ViacomCBS will have the largest share of U.S. TV audience (22%) among all media companies, and would also be on top in all major U.S. demos, including total audience, adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and kids 2-11.
The CBS-Viacom union—which values Viacom at around $11 billion—is on a much smaller scale than other recent industry mega-mergers, such as Disney’s $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox in March and AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner in June 2018. It’s more along the lines of Discovery’s $14.6 billion purchase of Scripps in March 2018.
Because of that, many observers expect that ViacomCBS will ultimately look to merge with another media company like Discovery Inc., or potentially a tech company looking to increase its TV footprint, if it truly wants to hold its own with the likes of behemoths like AT&T, Comcast and Disney.
The merger should give the combined company a boost in the streaming space, which became even more saturated this year with the introduction of Apple TV+, Disney+ and BET+. Next year will see the arrival of WarnerMedia’s HBOMax and NBCUniversal’s Peacock; CBS All Access, meanwhile, has had a 5-year head start on those streaming newbies.
Viacom and CBS are already using their combined libraries to bolster CBS All Access and Pluto TV, the ad-supported free streaming service that Viacom bought earlier this year to become the centerpiece of its streaming strategy. Last month, CBS Interactive channels including ET Live and CBSN New York were added to the Pluto lineup, and CBS All Access said last week that it will add a library of Nickelodeon programming in January.
The two companies initially split almost 14 years ago, but first talked about reuniting in 2016 when chairman Sumner Redstone prevailed over former Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman after months of fighting over the future of Viacom.
A CBS-Viacom merger, which seemed like a foregone conclusion for much of 2016, was put on hold in December of that year by National Amusements, which owns 80% of the voting shares of both Viacom and CBS.
The companies again agreed to explore a merger in February 2018, but those talks derailed and resulted in CBS suing majority owners Sumner and Shari Redstone that May. Last September, just before their Oct. 3 court date, the companies reached a settlement on the same day former CBS CEO Les Moonves exited the company following sexual misconduct allegations.
As part of that settlement, National Amusements agreed to not pursue a merger between CBS and Viacom for two years, but the CBS board, not National Amusements, initiated this year’s talks, which heated up this summer.
ViacomCBS consolidates network leadership
Last month, in a premerger shakeup, ViacomCBS consolidated network leadership among a few execs including Chris McCarthy and David Nevins.
McCarthy—who had been president of MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo—was named president of entertainment and youth brands at ViacomCBS’ domestic media networks, and now additionally oversees Viacom’s Comedy Central, TV Land and Paramount Network, as well as CBS’ Smithsonian Channel. Kent Alterman, who had been running Comedy Central since 2016 and added TV Land and Paramount Network oversight last year as part of a major Viacom restructuring, exited the company
Nevins—who is chief creative officer for CBS and Showtime Networks’ chairman and CEO— added oversight of BET, in addition to all the CBS properties he heads up. BET president Scott Mills remains in his role and reports to Nevins.
Additionally, Nevins will chair a new content council made up of all Viacom and CBS creative operations, to make sure they are working together to maximize use of IP and talent relationships across the combined company.
Nickelodeon chief Brian Robbins will continue to run that network, as president of kids and family entertainment, ViacomCBS domestic media networks. He’ll also oversee Awesomeness, which he co-founded in 2012 and ran before leaving the company in 2017 when he was named president of Paramount Players. (Viacom acquired Awesomeness last year.)
Marc DeBevoise—who last month had been promoted to CEO of CBS Interactive—will head up all digital operations of ViacomCBS as chief digital officer. Pluto TV CEO Tom Ryan—whose ad-supported streaming service Viacom bought in March—will continue reporting directly to Bakish.
Kelly Day, who heads up Viacom Digital Studios, will continue in that role and report to DeBevoise. Phil Wiser, chief technology officer at CBS, will continue in the role for the combined company, reporting to DeBevoise.
In other ViacomCBS exec appointments, Jim Gianopulos will oversee filmed entertainment, continuing as chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures. Carolyn Kroll Reidy will lead the company’s publishing assets, continuing as president and CEO of Simon & Schuster.
“ViacomCBS will be a truly global, multiplatform, premium content powerhouse with tremendous assets and scale,” Bakish said during last month’s Viacom earnings call. “The strength and scale of ViacomCBS assets, which include one of the largest troves of IP in the world and production capabilities that are second to none, will enable us to pursue a growth strategy driven by one agenda to maximize the value of the content we create for our own platforms and for others.”