CBS, Viacom Agree to $30 Billion Re-Merger

Thirteen years after Viacom spun off CBS as a wholly owned subsidiary, the two companies are re-merging under the same corporate umbrella.

The two entertainment companies Aug. 13 announced a definitive agreement to combine in an all-stock $30 billion merger, creating a combined company — ViacomCBS Inc. — with more than $28 billion in revenue.

CBS shareholders will own approximately 61% of the combined company and Viacom shareholders will own approximately 39%.

The combined company will be led by Bob Bakish, current CEO of Viacom, with Joe Ianniello, acting CEO at CBS, becoming president/CEO of CBS.

The two companies, whose assets include Paramount Pictures, BET, MTV, Comedy Central, Showtime, CBS All Access, among others, expect to save $500 million in combined synergies — about half of what they originally sought.

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The pact was spearheaded by Shari Redstone, who runs National Amusements Inc., parent to both Viacom and CBS, for her ailing father, Sumner Redstone. NAI holds approximately 78.9% and 79.8% of the Class A voting shares of CBS and Viacom, respectively.

Shari Redstone has eyed the reunion as a means for Viacom and CBS better competing against a rapidly evolving media landscape, which includes subscription streaming video-on-demand.

“My father once said ‘content is king,’ and never has that been more true than today,” Redstone said in a statement. “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.”

ViacomCBS contends it would be better able to scale globally, with leadership positions in markets across the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia.

In addition to a significant television business in the U.S., the combined company possesses a portfolio of direct-to-consumer platforms, including both subscription (CBS All Access, Showtime OTT) and ad-supported (Pluto TV) offerings. It also includes Paramount Pictures and Paramount Home Entertainment.

“Today marks an important day for CBS and Viacom, as we unite our complementary assets and capabilities and become one of only a few companies with the breadth and depth of content and reach to shape the future of our industry,” Bakish said in a statement.

Ianniello said the merger brings a new set of opportunities to both companies.

“At CBS, we have outstanding momentum right now — creatively and operationally — and Viacom’s portfolio will help accelerate that progress,” Ianniello said.

In addition to Bakish and Ianniello, the company will include Christina Spade as EVP and Chief Financial Officer, and Christa D’Alimonte as EVP, General Counsel and Secretary.

The deal was originally delayed after former CBS boss Les Moonves sought the CEO position among the combined companies. Shari Redstone wanted Bakish.

Moonves dropped out of discussions when he was forced out at CBS following a series of #MeToo allegations.

Viacom, CBS Agree on Merger Price

The expected re-merger between Viacom and CBS has reportedly found common ground on the all-stock transaction’s price at around Viacom’s $12 billion market valuation.

Bloomberg, citing sources familiar with the deal, says the merger, which would re-unite parent Viacom and CBS after 13 years, could be announced as early as today.

Specifically, Viacom would get 0.59625 a share of CBS for each of its own shares. A year ago, Viacom had sought 0.6135 a share of CBS.

The two companies, whose assets include Paramount Pictures, BET, MTV, Comedy Central, Showtime and CBS All Access, among others, are looking to save $500 million in combined synergies — about half of what they originally announced.

The deal was originally delayed after former CBS boss Les Moonves sought the CEO position among the combined companies. Shari Redstone, who runs Viacom/CBS parent company, National Amusements Inc. for her ailing 94-year-old father, Sumner Redstone, wanted Bob Bakish, CEO of Viacom, to hold the position.

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Moonves dropped out of discussions when he was forced out at CBS following a series of #MeToo allegations.

Now Bakish is seen inheriting the CEO position, which leaves acting CBS CEO Joe Ianniello’s position unknown.

 

CBS, Viacom Re-Merger Nearly Complete; CBS Eyeing Higher Price Point for International ‘All Access’ Rollout

As expected, the Viacom and CBS re-merger could reportedly be announced as early as next week, pending last-minute stock exchange issues.

Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino Aug. 9 on Twitter said the deal reuniting CBS with parent Viacom after a 13-year split is in the hands of the companies’ respective boards.

Viacom and CBS are majority owned by family-owned National Amusements, which is operated by Shari Redstone on behalf of her ailing 96-year-old father, Sumner Redstone.

Shari Redstone has pushed for the merger, claiming media consolidation is a perquisite for navigating the rapidly changing media landscape and over-the-top video distribution. She also wants Viacom CEO Bob Bakish to lead the combined companies.

Redstone’s strategy was initially rebuffed by former CBS CEO Les Moonves, who wanted the top job. With Moonves out following #MeToo issues, consummation of the merger seemed a formality.

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Separately, CBS says it will have 25 million combined CBS All Access/Showtime OTT subscribers by 2022.

To get there the media giant is rolling out All Access internationally in attempt to borrow a page from Netflix’s subscriber growth playbook.

All Access, like Hulu, is available with limited ads for $5.99 monthly, or ad-free for $9.99 ($11.99 for Hulu).

Speaking on the Aug. 8 fiscal call, acting CEO Joe Ianniello said the company would target Latin America and Europe with the more expensive $9.99 price point.

“Two-thirds of the All Access subs are taking the limited commercial option,” he said. “So obviously, the vast majority of that is the $9.99 price point.”

Ianniello contends there is strong demand for premium content delivered via broadband in the international marketplace.

“I just look at the number of people in the consumption of Netflix,” he said. “I’m very encouraged that this is single-handedly the largest opportunity that we have in front of us.”

Ianniello said CBS targets international distribution of proprietary content on franchise-per-franchise basis. Characterizing the U.S. market as “limited” to 325 million people, the executive contends a global audience in the billions satisfies long-term fiscal goals.

“Our thought is if [international is] willing to pay us [$9.99], we’re going to look at that hard,” Ianniello said. “But if they’re not, we’re going to put it through our own [domestic] infrastructure.”

With Disney announcing it would bundle pending SVOD service Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu, Ianniello said CBS is content limiting its OTT bundling to All Access and Showtime.

“I can understand why others want to kind of do that together because people will subscribe for different reasons,” he said.

With All Access nearly five years old, Ianniello says the company understands its appeal and marketing with Showtime.

“It’s an opportunity we don’t force consumers to do it,” he said. “They can buy part; if they want to buy them together, we obviously discount that. We think again those are different offerings and complementary as well.”

Pluto TV Ups Viacom Programming Slate

Viacom-owned ad-supported online TV streaming service Pluto TV Aug. 6 unveiled a new slate of genre and “pop-up” channels rolling out throughout the month with content licensed from Viacom’s IP library.

Viacom, which owns and operates Paramount Pictures, acquired Los Angeles-based Pluto TV earlier this year for $340 million.

This marks the latest installment of Viacom channels for Pluto TV this year, featuring original programming from BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike and TV Land separate from the pay-TV ecosystem.

The new channels include a lineup of 150+ live, linear, curated channels and thousands of on-demand movies from studios, networks, publishers and digital media companies.

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Genre channels feature differentiated programming from Viacom’s brands that include music videos, comedy, drama, and reality. Pop-Up channels are themed around high-profile, live entertainment events showcasing programming from past years and previews of what’s to come.

Streaming channels include “MTV VMA,” “CMT Cheerleaders,” “Comedy Central Roast,” “TV Land Sitcoms,” “TV Land Drama,” “MTV Wild ‘N Out,” “MTV Ridiculousness,” “MTV The Challenge,” “MTV Cribs” and “Are You the One?”

“With this new slate of Viacom channels, Pluto TV continues to deliver on the promise of extending iconic Viacom brands and content to a growing streaming audience,” Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “We saw an incredible response to the Viacom channels we launched earlier this year and are excited to be able to expand the offering with even more programming and events including the revival of music videos on streaming television with the launch of the first three of many MTV-branded music video channels.”

 

Pluto TV Launches Spanish-Language Platform

Pluto TV, Viacom’s ad-supported online TV service, July 1 announced the launch of Pluto TV Latino, a new platform featuring a suite of Spanish and Portuguese-language channels.

Pluto TV Latino represents the first offering of its kind to be introduced on a major ad-supported OTT platform.

The platform features 11 curated Spanish and Portuguese-language channels targeting U.S. Hispanic audiences. More than 2,000 hours of content includes movies, comedy, music, true crime, reality, sports and a selection of action and romance-packed telenovelas.

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The channels include three movie-themed channels showcasing blockbuster and native Spanish-language films, and all-new genre-specific channels featuring library collections, music specials, comedies, crime series, telenovelas and more from MTV, Comedy Central, Telemundo, Combate World and Lucha Libre.

Additional channels are expected to launch this fall featuring genres such as food, travel, competition, kids and single-series channels featuring  Spanish-speaking and dubbed versions.

“We have always envisioned Pluto TV as a destination with global appeal, where diverse audiences can find and stream the entertainment they love, for free,” Tom Ryan, CEO/co-founder, Pluto TV, said in a statement.

The introduction Pluto TV Latino is a multi-faceted initiative designed to offer diversified, ad-supported, streaming programming and entertainment with global appeal, according to Ryan.

Spanish-themed channels include Pluto TV Cine Estelar, Pluto TV Películas, Pluto TV Cine Latino, Pluto TV Investiga, Pluto TV Novelas, Telemundo Telenovelas Clásicas, MTV Latino, Comedy Central Latino and Pluto TV Brasil.

“Pluto TV Latino was designed to bring premium streaming programming to an underserved OTT audience with cross-generational appeal,” Ryan said. “To be the first ad-supported streaming platform to offer an entire category dedicated to U.S. Hispanic audiences is something we are incredibly proud of and furthers our mission to entertain the planet.”

Viacom’s Pluto TV Inks Deal with U.K.’s Channel 5

When Viacom acquired ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV for $340 million earlier this year, the corporate parent to Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon, had scant over-the-top video distribution.

Now, thanks to aggressive dealmaking, Pluto TV is expanding Viacom’s digital content reach globally.

The Los Angeles-based platform signed a distribution deal with Channel 5, the TV broadcaster in the United Kingdom owned by Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN).

Specifically, three branded channels — Pluto TV Drama, Pluto TV Food and Pluto TV Movies – are headed to Channel 5’s “My5” OTT platform — the latter distributed through Apple TV, YouView, Freeview and related devices.

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“Collaborating with a well-established VOD platform like My5 allows us to pursue our ongoing goal to further enhance Pluto TV’s visibility in the U.K.,”  Olivier Jollet, Pluto’s managing director in Europe, said in a statement. “The three curated Pluto TV channels not only add to My5’s existing line-up, but also enable the My5 audience to experience a small portion of Pluto TV’s diverse programming.”

Pluto has expanded distribution (and Viacom content) through recent deals involving Comcast Cable’s X1 platform, Cox Contour, CNN, Cinedigm and BBC Studios.

“This is a global opportunity,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said earlier this year. “It’s going to accelerate our strategy on multiple dimensions. We see a very material opportunity there.”

Indeed, Oli Thomas, VP of digital at VIMN in the U.K., Northern and Eastern Europe, said the MY5 arrangement elevates the U.K. broadcaster’s streamer’s diversity in OTT content.

“The Pluto TV channels further enhance our proposition in the U.K.,” he said. “We know that movies and drama in particular work well in the on-demand space and we’re thrilled to debut such an exciting range of library content on My5.”

Viacom, Tyler Perry Partner for BET Streaming Video Service

BET Networks, a unit of Viacom Media Networks, and Tyler Perry Studios June 24 unveiled a new joint venture to launch BET+, a pending subscription video-on-demand service targeting the African-American audience.

Available this fall, BET+ will feature more than 1,000 hours of content, including original programming and catalog series, movies, and specials from BET Networks, Perry, and other African-American content creators.

Tyler Perry

“African-Americans are the leading consumers of streaming services, with higher SVOD adoption rates than other consumers, which is why we’re so excited to launch a premium product for this underserved audience,” Scott Mills, president of BET Networks, said in a statement.

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BET+ will offer consumers a comprehensive collection of African-American-focused dramas, sitcoms, films and specials. It will be the official home of Tyler Perry’s collected works across film, television and the stage.

The service will feature Perry’s box office-topping theatrical films, including films from the “Madea” series; original series “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns” and a selection of Perry’s stage plays.

“In our industry, the way people consume content is constantly evolving,” Perry said. “I’ve paid attention to my audience and what works for them and, for that reason, I’m very excited not only about the idea of partnering with BET to create new and exciting content, but also about the idea of giving people a personalized experience through the ability to curate the content they love to consume.”

The first BET+ original — “First Wives Club,” a 10 episode scripted drama from Girls Trip screenwriter Tracy Oliver — will debut on the service in the fall.

The modern television remake of the classic 1996 revenge comedy starring Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton now stars an African American cast, including Jill Scott(“Why Did I Get Married”), Ryan Michelle Bathe (“This is Us,” “Empire”) and Michelle Buteau (“Isn’t It Romantic”).

“First Wives Club” kicks off BET+’s slate of exclusive original programming that includes the premiere of a new series from Will Packer (“Ride Along,” “Think Like a Man”) and new original series from Tyler Perry and more.

The service will also feature a deep library of beloved series, films, and documentaries from BET Networks and the Viacom portfolio — including “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” “The New Edition Story,” “The Quad,” “College Hill,” “Comic View,” “Hell Date,” and more — most of which have not previously been available on streaming platforms.

BET+ will be available at launch on Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy, iOS devices such as the Apple iPad and iPhone, as well as other streaming devices.

BET’s new and current-window programming will continue to be available on BET’s linear network, including the newly-announced Tyler Perry original drama, “The Oval,” which will debut on BET as the first series under Perry’s multi-year content partnership with the network.

With over 75 hours of new original content slated to premiere on BET over the next year, Perry’s line-up will also include another drama series, two comedy series, and a live holiday-themed production. BET fans will have additional access points to BET content on BET.com and the BET Now app for TV Everywhere users.

Pluto TV Joins Comcast’s X1 Platform

Viacom’s online ad-supported TV service Pluto TV June 13 announced it has launched on Comcast Cable’s Xfinity X1 platform.

Pluto TV, which is already available on Comcast’s Internet-only $5 monthly Xfinity Flex service, joins Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video reaching the cabler’s cloud-based X1 subscribers.

“The launch of Pluto TV on Xfinity X1 is a pivotal moment for Pluto TV, expanding our reach to a whole new audience in search of free streaming entertainment,” Tom Ryan, CEO and co-Founder of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Pluto TV is the perfect complement to the X1 platform, delivering a rich lineup of original live channels and on-demand movies and TV shows to Comcast’s customers right where they enjoy the rest of their entertainment experience.”

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The AVOD service would appear to complicate Comcast’s planned launch of an NBC Universal branded SVOD/AVOD service to subscribers in 2020. The ad-free version would be available to non-subs and priced comparable to Hulu and Netflix, or $9 to $14 monthly.

Regardless, Pluto TV, with 150 content partners, features movies: Pluto TV Movies 1 & 2and DramaComedyFamilyIndiesRomanceDocumentariesThrillersCult FilmsHorror 24/7Action MoviesFlicks of FuryThe Asylum, and Black Cinema.

News with Today’s Top StoryNews 24/7Cheddar NewsTYT NetworkNewsmaxTVTop Stories by NewsySky NewsBloomberg TV and WeatherNation.

Sports with Pluto TV SportsFox SportsMLS,Impact WrestlingFightCombate WorldStadiumSurf ChannelSports NewsWorld Poker TourCombat GoLucha Libre AAA, and Big Sky Conference.

Comedy with Funny AFPluto TV SitcomsStand Up TVMST3K,RifftraxFail ArmyCats 24/7The OnionCracked and Pet Collective.

Gaming with The FeedHiveAnime All DayAnime All AgesMinecraftvIGNGeek & Sundry and Nerdist.

Entertainment through the Crime NetworkThe New DetectivesUnsolved MysteriesForensic FilesDog the Bounty HunterPluto TV ConspiracyPluto TV AnimalsCold Case FilesShout TVBuzzrClassicTV,ConTVWipeoutKids TV, After School CartoonsClassic ToonsAwesomeness TVNoseyWhat?! and RevryMTV Pluto TVParamount (PZG) Movie Channel, Comedy Central Pluto TVSpike Pluto TVPluto TV LogoBET Pluto TVNick Pluto TV and Nick Jr. Pluto TV – all featuring iconic, hit shows from Viacom’s deep library.

Lifestyle content with Pluto TV CarsPeople TVGordon Ramsay’s Hell’s KitchenComplex NetworksWahlburgersPluto TV HerPluto TV Her DramasPluto TV TravelPluto TV WeddingsFrontDoorAdventure TVFood TV and Faith TV.

Curiosty with Voyager DocumentariesScience TVPluto TV HistoryDocuTVPluto TV BiographyLaw & CrimePluto TV Military and NASA.

Viacom Africa to Launch Nickelodeon-Themed eSports Platform

Viacom is set bow its first interactive eSports gaming platform based on its Nickelodeon kids franchise through Viacom Africa.

The African division of the parent to Paramount Pictures, MTV and Comedy Central, among others, is said to be working with Australia-based Emerge Gaming for the “NickX’ platform, which will be based on the latter’s ArcadeX technology.

NickX would afford Nickelodeon’s target market access to an esports tournament platform featuring branded games and content.

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The global eSports market is projected to reach 453.8 million players in 2019, up 15% from 2018, according to research firm NewZoo. This user base will consist of 201.2 million eSports enthusiasts (up 16.3%) and 252.6 million occasional players (up 14%).

The NickX platform will be accessible for free through the Nick app, Android and iOS devices. Viacom and Emerge would split revenue from premium subscriptions, in-app subscriptions and advertising. The platform is slated for launch in July.

“Viacom represents the absolute best in terms of … leading global brands with [worldwide] reach and represents the first [major] brand to partner with Emerge Gaming,” Bert Mondello, chairman of Emerge Gaming, said in a statement. “The strategy is to provide kids with educational content through ‘NickX’ while [also] creating an engaging gaming environment.”

 

 

Viacom’s BET Getting into Streaming Video

Viacom’s BET network reportedly is getting into the over-the-top video business with a little help from Tyler Perry.

The streaming service — dubbed BET+ — will be supported content-wise and financially by Perry, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the situation.

No pricing has been announced.

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Perry, who has a five-year production deal with Viacom, would also offer content from his branded Tyler Perry Studios, as well as from Viacom subsidiaries VH1, Comedy Central and MTV.

BET+ already has competition from AMC Network’s Urban Movie Channel, which launched in 2015 by BET founder Robert L. Johnson offering movies, TV shows and stand-up comedy to African American audiences.

After a slow start, Viacom has jumped head first into OTT video following the acquisition of ad-supported Pluto TV earlier this year. BET+ follows Noggin, the $2.99 pre-school-centric SVOD service launched in 1999.

The service follows in the footsteps of pending Disney+ and Apple TV+, among other services, and will be disclosed to viewers by Perry during the BET Awards on June 23.