If you work in this industry long enough, you’ll see how cyclical it can be. Case in point, today’s announcement that CBS and Viacom have entered into a definitive agreement to combine in an all-stock merger, creating a combined company with more than $28 billion in revenue. The new entity, known as ViacomCBS Inc., will be led by Bob Bakish as President and CEO, with Joe Ianniello serving as Chairman and CEO, CBS. And it’s just the latest bit of boardroom drama that’s swirled around these corporate entities for at least the last 20 years.
Variety has a great breakdown on the timeline of the events leading up to this merger, stretching all the way back to 1999. A rosier report on the state of the companies, one that doesn’t delve into the various lawsuits or personal and professional failings, was sent out via press release. Which ever point of view you take, the result is this: ViacomCBS Inc. is now a stronger power player that combines the company’s #1 ratings across all key TV demographics and strong performances across all genres with direct-to-consumer offerings (through subscriptions and ad-supported platforms), as well as feature film production through Paramount Pictures. This is all sure to bring ViacomCBS Inc. into the conversation with Netflix, Disney+, and WarnerMedia as the streaming wars continue to heat up.
Here are some of the things the combined company boasts:
- Iconic library of 140,000+ premium TV episodes and 3,600+ film titles
- Production capabilities across five continents, including more than 750 series ordered to or in production
- One of a few major film studios operating on a global basis
- Among the biggest content spenders in the industry, with more than $13 billion spent in the last 12 months
- Diverse and fast-growing portfolio of direct-to-consumer offerings
- Global reach of more than 4.3 billion cumulative TV subscribers in 180+ countries
- #1 share of broadcast and cable viewing across all key demographics in the U.S.
That portfolio of powerful consumer brands, includes CBS, Showtime, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Paramount Network, as well as one of a library comprising 140,000+ TV episodes and 3,600+ film titles, and fan-favorite franchises such as Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. The breadth and depth of the combined company’s reach across both traditional and new platforms – including 22% of U.S. TV viewership – is expected to drive important new distribution and advertising opportunities. Notably, in addition to content licensing, CBS and Viacom are developing must-watch programming for a broad range of third-party networks and platforms to feed significant demand for original, premium content.
But they’re also looking forward to more non-traditional ways to expand in the future. The combined company is expected to accelerate and expand its direct-to-consumer strategy through subscription and ad-supported offerings, including CBS All Access and Showtime; Pluto TV, the leading free streaming TV service in the U.S.; and niche products such as CBSN, ET Live and Noggin. These platforms also have promising potential in global reach.
The merger agreement was approved by the Boards of Directors of both CBS and Viacom by unanimous vote of those present, upon the unanimous recommendations of the Special Committees of the CBS and Viacom Boards of Directors, respectively. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. It is expected to close by the 2019 calendar year end. Stay tuned.