CBS, Shari Redstone Clash Gets Oct. 3 Court Date

The legal skirmish between CBS and corporate parent National Amusements, which is led by co-owners Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone (who runs the company in place of her ailing father), will gets its day in court on Oct. 3.

On that day, the Delaware Chancery Court will begin proceedings to determine whether CBS has the legal authority to flood shareholders with a dividend issuance that would reduce National Amusement’s voting power from 79% to 17%. The issuance would not undermine NAI’s stock ownership or market cap.

Shari Redstone responded to the CBS move by changing the company’s bylaws and requiring 90% approval vote by the board of directors on such matters.

At issue is Ms. Redstone’s desire to meld CBS with Viacom, whose assets include Paramount Pictures, BET, MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, among others.

Les Moonves, who heads CBS, has been lukewarm to the idea. Moonves, who would head the combined company, wants to install his own management team, including COO Joseph Inniello as his second-in-command.

Redstone wants to put Bob Bakish, current CEO of Viacom, in that position.

CBS, which delayed its annual shareholder meeting due to the conflict, has rescheduled it for August 10.

 

Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami Departs

Nickelodeon June 4 announced that longtime president Cyma Zarghami is stepping down after more than 30 years with the network. As Zarghami exits, Nickelodeon claims to have the highest share of total viewing in kids’ television.

While Viacom conducts a search for a successor, Sarah Levy, COO of Viacom Media Networks, will lead the brand on an interim basis.

Levy will work with Nickelodeon’s management team to launch a pipeline of more than 800 new episodes and accelerate the brand’s push into new and next-generation streaming platforms, film, live experiences and consumer products.

Zarghami joined Nickelodeon in 1985 and was named president in 2006. Under her leadership, Nickelodeon became a global brand for kids, spanning linear and multiplatform programming, film, live experiences and consumer products.

“Over the course of her career, Cyma has played an integral role in growing Nickelodeon into the dominant force in kids’ entertainment,” Bob Bakish, CEO of Viacom, said in a statement. “Her instincts for creating content and experiences that kids love have been vital to the brand’s success around the world.”

Upon assuming control of Viacom, Bakish said the media company would focus ongoing efforts on select brands, that include Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon and Nick Jr., among others.

“We continue to evolve the business and connect with young audiences in new and innovative ways,” Bakish said. “I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Cyma for her leadership and wish her every success.”

Paramount Posts First Quarterly Profit Since 2015

Paramount Pictures April 25 reported second-quarter (ended March 31) operating income of $9 million on revenue of $741 million. It was Paramount’s first quarterly income since Sept. 30, 2015. The studio reported a $66 million loss on revenue of $895 million during the previous-year period.

Theatrical revenue decreased 79% to $50 million, primarily due to fewer titles in the quarter and a modified release strategy that resulted in certain legacy slate titles moving from theatrical to licensing distribution. Domestic and international theatrical revenues decreased 64% and 86%, respectively.

Licensing revenue grew 37% to $477 million, primarily driven by the release of The Cloverfield Paradox on Netflix, as well as Paramount Television product, including “The Alienist.” Domestic licensing revenue increased 46% while international licensing revenue grew 31%.

“Turnaround efforts have firmly taken hold as the studio improved margins and returned to profitability. This month’s outstanding box-office performance of A Quiet Place, the first film produced and released under the new team at Paramount, is a clear sign of our progress,” Bob Bakish, CEO of parent Viacom, said in a statement.

Paramount Pictures Home Media Distribution posted revenue of $163 million, which was down 18% from revenue of $198 million last year. The home entertainment unit has generated $346 million through six months of the fiscal year, down 22% from $441 million last year.

Domestic home entertainment revenue decreased 29% while international home entertainment revenue increased 13%. Ancillary revenue decreased 54% to $51 million, with domestic and international ancillary revenue down 63% and 11%, respectively.

Overall studio revenue topped $1.2 billion through six months, down 23% from revenue of $1.65 billion through the same period last year.

 

Viacom Asks CBS to Up Merger Bid

Media giant Viacom reportedly has asked CBS Corp. to increase its undisclosed merger bid by $2.8 billion. CBS previously offered an amount (reportedly $11.9 billion) below Viacom’s market capitalization value, according to CNBC, which cited sources familiar with the proceedings.

Viacom, which includes Paramount Pictures and Paramount Home Media Distribution, is majority owned by National Amusements – the corporate shell run by Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone that controls Viacom and CBS.

Viacom spun off CBS in 2006 with Les Moonves assuming control of the publicly traded company.

With ongoing media consolidation industrywide, Shari Redstone seeks to consolidate the two companies, putting Moonves in charge. Redstone, however, wants Bob Bakish, current CEO of Viacom, to be president/COO of a combined Viacom/CBS, while Moonves prefers that position go to Joseph Ianiello, current COO at CBS.

Separately, CBS nominated Richard Parsons, the 70-year-old former CEO of Time Warner, to its board of directors. Parsons, who was replaced by Jeff Bewkes in 2008, was an earlier supporter of releasing movies digitally day-and-date with their packaged media debut – a move criticized at the time by video stores seeking exclusivity.

Parsons then enflamed the situation when, in a fiscal call, he said it would be a “cold day in hell” before leaving his Manhattan apartment to go to a video store. His comments came as Warner Home Video ranked #1 in domestic home video disc sales, with an industry-leading 20.2% market share.

 

Complete ‘Jackass’ Set Due May 29 from Paramount

Paramount Home Media Distribution will release the Jackass: Complete Movie and TV Collection on DVD May 29 (prebook April 17).

The 11-disc set includes all seven movies as well as the entire TV series.

In the ‘Jackass’ films and series, Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Chris Pontius and Jason ‘Wee Man’ Acuña perform comedic stunts and pranks. The 16-hour collection includes: Jackass: The Movie, Jackass Number Two, Jackass 2.5, Jackass 3, Jackass 3.5, Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa, Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa .5 and the “Jackass” Classic Television Collection.

The set arrives just before the June 1 theatrical premiere of Action Point, also from the “Jackass” team.

Marcais Takes Marketing Position at Paramount

Vincent Marcais has been appointed EVP of worldwide marketing for Paramount Home Media Distribution. He will oversee the creative advertising, media, brand and market research for all of the studio’s home entertainment releases across physical and digital platforms and will report to Bob Buchi, president, worldwide home media distribution, Paramount Pictures.

“Vincent brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our division, having worked with physical and digital retailers around the world to maximize title performance in the shifting home entertainment landscape,” Buchi said in a statement. “We look forward to his contributions as we continue to explore innovative marketing strategies to bring our products to the widest possible audience across all platforms.”

Marcais previously served as EVP of worldwide brand and customer marketing for 20th Century Fox Digital Home Media where he oversaw the release campaigns for all transactional businesses (video-on-demand, DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD) and also managed joint consumer marketing efforts with digital retailers and U.S. and international operators.  During his tenure, Marcais was a key driver of the division’s transformation from a pure physical distribution company into a digital new media company.

Marcais began his career with French car manufacturer Citroën and joined Fox Video France in 1991 where he held numerous marketing and sales positions. From 2002 to 2006 he served as Fox’s VP of Marketing for the European home entertainment operation. He relocated to Los Angeles in 2006 to serve as SVP of international marketing for Fox and became EVP of worldwide brand and customer marketing in 2012.

Marcais effectively replaces Steve Siskind, who had been president, marketing, worldwide home media distribution for Paramount since September 2016. Siskind left Paramount last week. Before taking the home media marketing job, Siskind had been president of domestic theatrical marketing at Paramount for two years.

‘Downsizing’ at UltraViolet?

As studio home entertainment divisions trumpet the Disney-spawned and re-jiggered Movies Anywhere, Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate remain on the sidelines.

Paramount recently announced the digital (March 6) and 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc (March 20) street dates for the comedy Downsizing, starring Oscar-winners Matt Damon and director Alexander Payne.

Notable to the packaged-media release: cloud-based access via UltraViolet — not Movies Anywhere. UV users are directed to ParamountMovies.com to enter the redemption code for UV access, in addition to iTunes for Digital Copy.

Movies Anywhere touted nearly 80 million movies in user accounts earlier this year — about half the 165 million UltraViolet titles in 2015, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. The platform had more than 30 million registered accounts in July 2017.

There’s no doubt a unified Movies Anywhere platform with one-click access to cloud-based digital movie acquisitions is a good thing. UltraViolet attempted to meld physical media with the cloud — a strategy that required burdensome input.

It would be a shame if all that effort was lost in the cloud.

Viacom CEO: ‘Our Brands Coming to Mobile’ in the U.S.

Look for Viacom and its key brands – Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET – to go increasingly mobile in the United States.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom confab in San Francisco, CEO Bob Bakish said recently announced moves partnering with Spain’s Telefónica making Viacom’s brands available on the telecom’s Movistar Play platform, underscored a need to “export” that strategy in the United States.

“We’re also in a very interesting conversation here in the U.S. right now about bringing our brands to mobile, and I believe that will happen in 2018,” Bakish said.

The executive said the year revolves around growing margins in established businesses, new distribution channels as well as improving synergies among internal brands through consumer products, live-events and incremental studio opportunities.

“We see a clear path toward top-line growth,” Bakish said, adding he expects Paramount growth to materialize in 2019.

The executive said Paramount is transforming from an underleveraged “fiscal mess” in 2016 that “ate over” $1 billion in cash, to a unit with a content library growing more than $300 million in value annually.

Half the studio’s release slate will be franchise sequels, with the remaining branded around Nickelodeon.

Viacom in January rolled of the Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV), an ad-supported service distributing original (“Waco” miniseries, starring Taylor Kitsch as cult leader David Koresh) and catalog content.

Future original series include, “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner; “American Woman,” a single-camera comedy set in the 1970s amid the sexual revolution and the rise of feminism, starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari; and “Heathers” an hour-long pitch-black comedy anthology set in the present day, based on the 1988 cult classic film of the same name.

“[Paramount] is an iconic brand, known all around the world. It’s on a clear path to return to profitability,” Bakish said.

 

 

Viacom CEO: ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ Sale to Netflix a ‘One-Off’ Deal

Following an underperforming legacy film slate, Paramount Pictures jumped at the chance to offload sci-fi drama The Cloverfield Paradox to Netflix, according to Viacom CEO Bob Bakish.

The subscription streaming video behemoth — which reportedly paid $50 million for the rights — promptly streamed the third installment in the franchise (following 10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016) globally at the conclusion of Super Bowl LII — after paying millions more for a TV commercial aired during the game. A first for a major Hollywood movie.

During the Feb. 8 fiscal call, Bakish described the arrangement —that bypassed theatrical distribution — as “bit of a one-off” deal.

“This was a unique situation that we thought was the right fit for the franchise,” Bakish told analysts. “It allowed us to take advantage of an attractive audience and really create some pretty compelling economics.”

With the domestic launch of the Paramount Network the lone positive for the studio (narrowing operating loss 28% was another) in Q1, the studio has its sights on upcoming tentpole releases Mission: Impossible — FalloutTop Gun: MaverickWorld War Z 2, branded films from Paramount Players (What Men Want, Dora the Explorer) and Paramount Animation (SpongeBob The Movie), and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog.

Cloverfield Paradox, which received poor reviews and was slated for April release, apparently didn’t make the cut.

“We’re going to continue to focus the vast majority of our releases on traditional theaters, and we see a great opportunity there to take share driven by our ’19 slate and beyond,” Bakish said. “But, given our production capabilities and the landscape, we’re going to continue to look broadly and creatively for opportunities to create additional value for Paramount.”

 

Disney’s Liz West Gets High-Level Marketing Communications Post at Paramount

Liz West is the new EVP of marketing communications for international theatrical marketing and worldwide home entertainment at Paramount Pictures.

West is a veteran entertainment executive who most recently served as VP of global publicity at the Walt Disney Co.

In her new role at Paramount, she reports to Mary Daily, who joined the studio last September as president of international theatrical marketing and worldwide home media entertainment. Daily previously spent nine years at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, most recently serving as president and chief marketing officer, worldwide marketing.

In a news release, Paramount says West fills a newly created role in which she will work closely with senior executive teams to drive key worldwide marketing initiatives, including digital and publicity campaigns for international territories.

“As our slate expands and our business grows we are looking to make sure we have a strategic, lifecycle approach to our movies and integrated consumer-facing communications across these areas,” Daily said. “Liz, who is a known strategist with the invaluable combination of both international theatrical and home entertainment experience, is the perfect executive to help lead these efforts.”

West starts at Paramount on Feb. 26.

Her tenure at Disney began in 2006, after eight years at Fox. While at Disney, West won acclaim for leading campaigns for such blockbusters as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and  key Disney catalog re-releases, including the successful 3-D re-release in theaters of The Lion King.

West and Daily have worked together before, at Fox, where Daily was VP of Europe from 1995 to 2000. Daily later worked as president, international marketing at Universal Pictures and general manager, programme enterprises at MTV Networks International before returning to Fox in February 2008 as EVP, North America.